Who cares about Palestine? (The Magical Arithmetic of Moral Imagination)

I do, and so should you.

The dividers of humanity will say: what is Palestine to you? You are not Palestinian, or an Israeli. You are from India and live in Hawai’i.

They will say: why don’t you care about the undocumented Central American children being rounded up on the US-Mexican border?

They will say: why don’t you write about the Dalit girls raped in the villages of India?

I do, and I have, and I will. I do care about those children and girls, and so should you.

But does that mean I can’t care about Palestinians today?

I’m talking about moral imagination, you understand. I know there are only so many hours in the day, and so many days in a week. Everyone can’t do everything. I get that. But how much time does it really take to expand your moral imaginative capacity (a good starting place)?

Here’s the crux of the matter. Most things in the world get smaller when you divide them. Money, land, water, oil. These get smaller when you spread them out amongst many people. That’s the tragedy—the war, the political economy, if you get my drift—of the world.

And then there is the call of moral imagination—which is in its own way a magical kind of answer to the tragedy and the war and the political economy. Do you really think if you divided your capacity for caring between two things rather than showering it on one you would care less? Do you really think your compassion for others would shrivel if you cared for the homeless and terrorized in Gaza? That it will now be impossible for you to be moved when you read Primo Levi or Anne Frank? (I am moved when I read them, and so should you.)

Here’s the crux of the matter. Most things in the world get smaller when you spread them out, when you divide them. But some things get bigger. That’s the magic: sometimes division multiplies! And then it multiplies you too in all the right, the magical, ways.

What does it matter if I am not a Palestinian or an Israeli? What does it matter where I am from, or where I live?

I care about what is happening in Palestine, and so, magically, should you.


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