The Latest Middle Eastern Crisis, by Mary Neal
duo | July 20, 2008 at 11:31 pmby
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Ironically, Winfrey Bottom was very much like “the Bottoms,” a neighborhood portrayed on the television series, In the Heat of the Night. The Bottom consisted of about forty duplex houses situated on a circular street. By the time I was up some size, the houses were little more than shacks, and I’m not sure they were ever anything else. Most of them had a porch across the entire front, three rooms on each side of the duplex that were lined up like hop-scotch blocks (that is called shotgun-style). There was no hall and most had no inside toilet. Winfrey Bottom’s half-mile circle began between Ms. Ann’s house and ours, and it circled downward, then back up to our street where it terminated just pass Ms. Margaret’s house, where she ran a store out of her front room.
The homes in Winfrey Bottom really needed painting. I don’t know if they had ever been painted, but there was none on any of the homes that I can remember. All of that dry wood was highly combustible. Many nights, we gathered on our back porch which overlooked Winfrey Bottom and watched a house burn. In fact, that’s how Ms. Lou died. She was a very old, blind lady with long braids that she always wore hanging from beneath a brightly colored bandanna. Ms. Lou lived alone, and I heard she accidentally knocked over her kerosene heater. None of the homes in Winfrey bottom had gas or electric heat – in fact, most black people in town during those years made fires for warmth in big wood burning heaters that sat in the middle of the floor, with a pipe through the ceiling to exhaust fumes.
Anyway, what Winfrey Bottom had in common with the Middle East is war. Seems like every weekend, usually at night, someone in Winfrey Bottom declared war on a family member or a neighbor. Most often, the conflict would consist only of loud cursing and threats of bodily harm, maybe a fist fight. But occasionally, there was a shooting or stabbing. I don’t remember if anyone was ever actually murdered. My family would line up against our rail on the back porch or sit in chairs and watch the fires and fights in Winfrey Bottom. We’d watch to see who the police arrested or how long it took for the firemen to extinguish the fires. Usually, the firefighters would just give up on the house where the fire started and hose down the ones on either side. Maybe that’s why there weren’t half-burned out houses lining the street creating a hazard and eyesore.
In Winfrey Bottom, some of the men would beat their wives, some wives would stab their husbands, and neighbors might shoot each other. Luckily, not many people had guns back then, so there weren’t that many shootings. In small towns, people usually have lots of close relatives, especially first and second cousins. If you ever went to war against a family in the Bottom, even if you won, you lost. This is because the following weekend, you would have to fight that neighbor’s cousins further up the circle. People were wise to do as my family did and stay out of their fights down there.
One day my uncle saw Ms. Betty’s husband beating her on their front porch. She must have seen my uncle observing the abuse, because she called out to him for help. Uncle Lee would have just watched, I am sure, if she hadn’t done that. But since she called him, Uncle Lee ran to her aid. Uncle Lee pulled Ms. Betty’s big husband away from his position where he was straddling Ms. Betty and delivering forceful blows to her head. Ms. Betty’s husband was not pleased with Uncle Lee’s interference, so they started fighting. My uncle was over 6 feet tall, and he had not been drinking like Mr. John, so it was pretty easy to dodge Mr. John’s fists and overcome him. One good punch and Mr. John lay unconscious halfway down the porch steps. Suddenly, Ms. Betty did a war cry and attacked my uncle from behind. She sprang on him like a wildcat and was riding Uncle Lee’s back while scratching his face, biting his neck, and cursing him. “Don’t you hurt my husband, you SOB, you!” she screamed.
Later, when my aunt was applying salve to Uncle Lee’s injuries, she reprimanded him for ever getting involved in what she called "that Winfrey Bottom mess." “Those people have been fighting for as long as they’ve been together,” she said, dabbing the cuts around his eyes with peroxide. “Why do you feel like it’s any of your business?”
Here’s the headline that started me thinking about those days I spent as a child observing life in Winfrey Bottom. I received numerous e-mails with this headline from my online groups this evening, and I was afraid to open them. The headline is frightening! Tonight, I finally worked up the nerve to face Armageddon. To my relief, the U.S. is not threatening military action at this time, but sanctions.
From The Sunday Times
July 20, 2008
U.S. gives Iran two weeks to think again on enrichment
“ Iran has a choice to make: negotiation or further isolation,” said US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. The negotiations in Geneva , allowed the United States to press its demand for the immediate suspension of Iran ’s uranium enrichment program, which many in the West suspect is designed to develop nuclear weapons. ++++++++++++++++++++
According to the article, the Iranians were offered a six-week freeze-for-freeze proposition. There would be no new sanctions for that time period if Iran agrees to halt its nuclear proliferation for six weeks, and Iran has two weeks to decide whether to accept this proposal.
Iran was offered good incentives to stop its bomb-making, too: investment in education, infrastructure, aviation, development and science. On the other hand, if Iran refuses to agree, there is apparently some concern that Israel might just launch an attack on Iran ’s nuclear facilities. Seems to me that Iran has good reason to consider its choices carefully. The incentive package they were offered versus a possible Israeli attack, which might spark another Middle Eastern conflict. Just what the world needs, right?
You can probably fit everything I know about Middle Eastern affairs on the tip of my cursor. But tell me, weren’t we just fighting FOR Iran a few years ago? Wasn’t that what Desert Storm was all about – helping Iranians who were being treated unfairly by Iraq? And if we have all this conflict with Iran now, it just doesn't seem wise to me to offer that country help with their aviation and science. I am unsophisticated about such things, but do you empower folks in the very areas where they pose a threat to you? Duh? I am glad I don’t have to try to understand international affairs. We have Ms. Rice for that, and we all know she is a great one for diplomatic relations (except POWs, of course). She said that sending Burns, the undersecretary of state, sent a strong signal to the entire world about the seriousness of the diplomacy.
I recently read about Iraq asking the U.S. & Company when we’re going home. According to news reports, supporting Iran had something to do with that request. Iraq apparently wants not to provide anyone a good jumping off point to invade Iran, if it comes to that. I suppose they're friends again. See what I mean?
Anyway, that’s why the Middle East reminds me of Winfrey Bottom. Kinfolks were forever feuding, and woe to anyone who tried to intervene.
Referenced News Article at this link: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article4364195.ece More about Shotgun Houses at this link: http://www.aaregistry.com/african_american_history/1679/Black_architecture_still_standing_the_Shotgun_House
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