Saturday, July 22, 2006

The beginning

The long-legged short torso diaries is my own sad attempt to be a Jamaican, feminist version of Che Guevarra traveling all over Latin America for one year. My project on Political Humor and Social Transformation in Nicaragua, Argentina, Peru and Paraguay really emerges from a real need for all of us to deconstruct and rethink our images of Latin America. I suppose images of Latin America are quite akin to those of the “Middle East” and the first thing that comes to mind when we think about those two regions have very little to do with laughter. So when we hear Latin America we think: Revolution, communism, Fidel Castro, romanticized versions of Che, Colombian drug lords, lazy Mexicans, backward indigenous people, and an angry, crazy Hugo Chavez. It is my hope that my own journey and these diaries about my trip will show you not only that Latin America is not in perpetual crisis, but will also give you an opportunity to really take laughter seriously. Laughter I believe makes us all a little more human and the history of political humour from political cartoonist, stand-up comedians and popular theatre in these countries has been completely ignored by the first world press and completely down-played by citizens of each of the countries I will visit.

It is also my hope that we will take this opportunity to understand violence in regions such as the ‘Middle East’ and the Arab World and make connections to what happens there with what happens in other third world countries. The death toll of 330 people in Lebanon at the start of the war, the ‘shock and awe’ bombings of schools in the south of Lebanon, the legitimizing narratives used by the Israeli government, the endorsement of the violence by the U.S government makes me ask myself “has the world gone crazy?” Is the displacement of thousands of Lebanese people, the murder of Lebanese children as ‘casualities,’ the soon to be rape of Lebanese women by Israeli soldiers and the reconstruction of Lebanon for the next couple decades really worth the lives of two soldiers? I mean lets be serious, there’s more than just the two soldiers lives that are at stake.

Now mommy, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that I’m taking my project to the ‘Middle East’ but what I am saying is with the constant coverage of war in Israel, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, the ordinary humanness of the people that live there gets lost in the minds of all of us. What I mean is, when there was no big war in Beirut, they barely appeared in the news—well at least Jamaican news. For instance, how many sitcoms have you ever seen about an Arab/Arab-American family, or seen a movie where the Arab character was not a terrorist or a suicide bomber---very few. And if you have seen these movies then you are probably mixing it up with a bollywood movie and those people are indians/south asians...NOT Arab. Stop clumping dude!
But the danger is not just the clumping but also the fact that these people i.e Arabs and people who confuse south asians as arabs get stuck in one role i.e the evil, terrorist role. And then we forget that they're human like us, I mean Arabs fart too. Can you imagine if they started an association like that? AFA: the arab farting association--Arabs farting for peace in the middle east...alright I'm getting off track....

Similarly, Nicaragua practically disappeared from the news after the 80s and when the Somoza regime came to an end it just seemed like there wasn't that much to talk about there. So that explains why when I say I’m going to Nicaragua everyone starts getting worried that I may be kidnapped by the FSLN or something or that some civil unrest will unfold when I’m there.
Now I am not arguing that we ought not to report on violence in the Arab world and Latin America but what I am saying is do not let that be the ONLY image you have of these regions. So if you want to learn about some Arab/Arab American comedians as part of a broader vision of Arab people check out Scott Blakeman, Maysoon Zaid and Dean Obeidallah: They are hilarious of course and talk about whats going on in the “Middle East.” And when you start reading about the Arab World you may be surprised that Chicken Soup for the Terrorist Soul just didn't turn up on your reading list.

Anyway, in closing the long-legged-short-torso diaries is set out to give you a new perspective, a broader vision of Latin America and the uses of political humour…Enjoy!