On the danger of a single story … from a white South African

A reader writes in response to an important theme (the narrative question) in ANKOCy:

I’m sure that you’re seen this link or watched this already (I’m sure
somebody has posted it to you) about Chimamanda Adichie’s talk on the
danger of the single story… see: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html
It’s an excellent perspective – and she talks a lot about Africa’s
“single story” in the eyes of the Western world… but I have to
shamefully admit that I have also had a “single story” about the
issues of Palestine… and reading your most recent posts (and
clicking on the links too) has made me realise (even more) the extent
of my ignorance.
On the one hand, I abhor war and violence… and can’t stand the
fighting that’s going on between Israel and Palestine… but I have to
admit, it had always been “sold” to me – and particularly when I lived
in America and worked in Ohio at a church (as a worship leader)…
that Palestinians were evil and that America had some kind of God-
given mandate to defend, protect and fight against the Palestinians on
behalf of the jews. I was quoted numerous scriptures of how America
was blessed because it ‘was on the side of God’s people – on the side
of Israel’… and they believed that America would, in a sense, be
cursed if they ever ‘aligned themselves with the enemy’ (being the
devil – but also the Palestinians… or Muslims in general).
Now although this didn’t make much sense to me at the time, and I
brushed it off… I must admit – I did buy in to the “single story”
of Palestinians being blood-thirsty, jihad-frenzied Muslims – hell-
bent on destroying Israel and eliminating all Jews from the place of
the planet. I never imagined that there was another story… the
footage I watched in the news – or the stories I heard told – all
seemed to support this fact. There was much imagery of marching and
rioting… and even more imagery of Palestinians burning the US
flag… and certainly loads of images and stories of suicide
bombers… and… and …. and…
I am SO ashamed to admit – that I hadn’t even realised that there were
such groups as Palestinian Christians!!?? (and I’m not implying that
it was okay to annihilate the Muslims – but now we should think twice
because there’s Christians in the mix too)… no, I’m just saying that
I had bought so strongly into the “single story” that Chimamanda
Adichie speaks about – that it DEFINED my understanding of what
Palestine was and who Palestinians were! #$%@! Tragic!
Needless to say – I’ve been doing much more reading up on the topic
(thanks for all the links posted in your blogs)… and trying to
educate myself on the matter. On the one hand, I feel angry and
brainwashed… like everything fed to me by my previous churches and
the mainstream media was all a lie! On the other hand, I feel deeply
ashamed for falling in to this trap… especially since I, as a white
South African, has often felt boxed into the single story of “racist
minority” when it came to our issues of apartheid in South Africa. If
I so hate being boxed by a ‘single story’ – then I, especially, have
no excuse for boxing others.
Anyway – just wanted to share that with you. As always, your books,
your blogs, your voice – it matters HUGELY!
Thank-you for shedding some light on this rocky road we’re trying to
journey down.

Reply after the jump …

Thanks for this note. I hadn’t seen the TED talk, and so enjoyed it very much.
On Palestine, I just received an email this morning from friends there … telling me about bulldozers coming in and destroying homes and olive trees (precious in that part of the world), and intimidating Palestinian people so that their lands can be annexed into Israel settlements. It’s disgusting. It just goes on and on. You’re using the right word: brainwashed.