Maybe We Can Emoji It All Better
I can’t believe that a month has come and gone, and my time in Israel is over (for now). When my friend Nicole invited me to her place, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Like most people from the West, I thought that Israel was insecure. In my limited experiences there, and what little awareness this has given me about the incredibly complex situation – I can say that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Israel is so safe that many people live in a bubble.
My expectations (and dogmas) almost prevented me from opening up, being truly curious and exploring everything that was on offer. These expectations were formed in part by a steady diet of ideas fed by the mainstream media, (non) formal institutions, societal norms, and personal and collective experiences. Let’s call this the Machine. It’s all good until it’s not.
I’ll give a silly example of this. Most Americans are pretty certain and pissed off that Russia helped elect Donald Trump. Vodka aside, we remain highly suspicious of all things Russian. We get our kicks watching Trever Noah and other comedy sketches that feature a dangerous Russian and his accent. There are also plenty of Hollywood villains that are Russian.
This is how this works.
While I was booking my flight from Israel, I didn’t even consider Aeroflot. I’d never flown on a Russian airline before, hadn’t planned on starting now. I didn’t even have a conscious reason for this. But I wound up flying Aeroflot since I waited to the last minute, and began to get more curious about the Moscow airport.
After posting a few humorous Instagram stories about me going down with the hashtag #itstherussians or #blameitontherussians , I settled into my seat next to a Russian guy. He was incredibly kind, helped me with my bags, and didn’t moan every time I stood to use the washroom. I casually looked at his WhatsApp conversation (as you do), and saw his messages littered with heart emojis and kisses. My brain fired off a “wow, he’s just like me…”
I know what you’re thinking. Lisa, you are crazy! (And you’d be right to think so).
But I also spent a lot of time studying anthropology and international relations. I know that some brutal genocides (Rwanda, Holocaust) was marked by the thought that – the other group is so dissimilar that the people who belong to this group are not human. There were even names for the Others (e.g. cockroaches).
Othering can start off innocently but eventually takes on a monstrous life of its own. What conflicts could be resolved by letting go expectations (no matter how scary this might be), spending a few hours with the “Other,” and comparing the use of WhatsApp emojis 😊🤗 🥰 There’s so much deprogramming potential to be had in braving the uncomfortable, getting into each other’s space, and sharing the mundane human experiences that transcend the social constructs of race, religion, nationality–and therefore borders! It’s no wonder that Power wants to keep us physically and emotionally segregated. Living behind walls. Missing out on perfectly good Russian flights 🤷🏽♀️
I know what you’re thinking. The Israel-Palestine conflict will take much more to resolve than humans on (many) sides observing, identifying with, and honoring each other’s humanity. You’re probably right. Or you could be wrong. After all, WhatsApp is nearly universal. So are heart and kissey-face emojis 😘 💖 We should spread those suckers around like confetti.
No dogmas of hate can ever survive that 🌈💋✨😍 …all we need is love, sweet love, Love is all we need. Emoji that and cultivate your joy.
(Pictured) The Israeli West Bank barrier or wall, is a separation barrier in the West Bank or along the Green Line.