08 January 2007

Something Different than Survivor's Guilt

I am writing a longer article on the Unembedded exhibition of photojournalism from Iraq (which I previously blogged about here) and I'm looking for resources to help me to describe and analyze some of the things I felt while viewing the photos. Guilt is not something that I feel often, and I'm not sure if it is entirely accurate descriptor of what I mean (or maybe it's exactly accurate). And of course anger, sadness and outrage. I am looking for resources, be they scholarly works or personal accounts, on viewing images like these--of transgressions against one's people--from the position of survivor, 2nd+ generation, and perpatrator (whether original or 2nd+ generation). So far I have been researching imagery of lynching, slavery, the Holocaust and the Vietnam War, and I would appreciate any recommendations within or beyond these topics.

Viewing the experiences represented in the exhibition certainly put the discrimination that I experience as an Arab American in context real quick. I thought of last summer when my aunt described all these wars by saying, "This is the life of the Arabs," and then I thought when other family members say that I am not Arab because I am American, maybe it is true because I get to be safe from the wars. I had deep feelings of guilt then because of how unfair it is that I get to have all these basic priveleges that are denied to people who are the same as me. I look for ways that I benefit from the wars overseas so that I may examine my complicity in them, but I can't find them. I know who my allegience is to. I have no (familial or otherwise) connections to Iraq, but four years ago while I was working in the mall, someone's grandmother told me in Arabic that we are all Arabs now, and I still find that to be true. Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon; Even if you aren't my people, you're still my people. Looking at the photos of Iraq felt the same as looking at the photos of Lebanon last summer, even as I viewed the photos from Lebanon with Lebanese family members who had fled their home, felt the same as looking at photos of Palestine even as I imagine my grandfather's house and remember the stories my aunties told me when I was little.

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