In this excerpt of my novel of Sri Lanka, "The Longest Tweet," I try to take apart the surprise and frankly, horror I felt when a highly educated Sri Lankan told me there had been no pogroms against Tamils in Matale in July, 1983. What do I know? I'm only a foreigner.
Why isn't it nice to think about them really? What's the problem? If the problem is violence it's nice to forget about it. Splish splash splish like the sound of a south asian phone making its random noises that please its owner but I'm sorry, behaves like a distraction to somebody else who's sharing the same couch in the five star hotel lobby, cushy, and hearing the sound of the fountain, splash, but above it the sound like a fluid lighter, its flint, chashing and clashing and clicking unpleasantly among the nice sounds. It's not nice except to its owner, kind of the opposite of a baby's cry that upsets its mother and causes her to lactate but doesn't affect the rest of the crowd except it's loud.
Loud is the sound of pogrom. Po. Grom! From gromko, loud, a Slavic sound. They knew. They didn't invent it the blini eaters but they used it to full effect. But R tells me. "Matale! It couldn't be!" "There were no pogroms in Matale in '83. You see Sam, there are very few Tamils in Matale! I'll check. But there were no pogroms in Matale." Couldn't be in 'eighty three. "Maybe you're thinking of the mass grave that was found in eighty nine! Maybe you're thinking of the JVP massacres. I'm afraid you're wrong. Nothing happened in Matale!" "Maybe you're pronouncing it wrong." Do you mean Matara? Do you mean Vavuniya? Matale didn't happen." Couldn't have. There are very few Tamils in Matale.
Very few now my good friend but how many were there? One? One hundred? One thousand? Ten thousand? How many were injured, affected, chased, thrown out, robbed, rioted against? Hurt? Scared? Pushed? Trodden? Stripped? Tortured? Abused? Sent packing? Ripped off? Shorn? Cleaved? Insulted? Trampled? Traced? Displaced? Erased?
Erased? No no my dear friend never. Scrubbed perhaps. Not in the Wikipedia site. Which was scrubbed. But let's be fair. It's not just just a Sri Lankan problem. Be fair! I insist! I ask for fairness. That's all. It's the least you can ask for. So. Look up any town in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Germany, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Italy, Greece, Macedonia, the former Yugoslavia, or France or Holland or Belgium or Norway. I've forgotten some I know it I left them out but. You will see their city seal. You will see their place on a map. You can trust those. You can see how they're pronounced in another language, perhaps the language of a temporary conqueror that imposed their own sound on the territory. Auschwitz is not the Polish pronunciation. Look up the German name for present day Łodz. There are lots of examples. You may learn from them. You will read the towns' demographic profiles in Wikipedia. Not Oświęcim or Łodz. These were very very bad places where hundreds of thousands of people died. One is a UNESCO Heritage site. These places are approved places to learn from. I'm talking about small towns. Sorry to get all lectury. Thousands of them. Places where the real trouble happened. Places where neighbors turned on neighbors or turned away when neighbors were rounded up like so many cattle and taken away in trucks. Read the demographic profile of these small towns. You will see there are very few Jews there. "Very few Jews there." Very. Few. Jews. There. News. There were very few Jews. There was no war there was there? It's so long ago! We're looking at upwards upwards upwards my friend of seventy years. Irrelevant! Not information! And there were really places where there was no war. Or just a little bit of war. Or some war. Or some Jews. Maybe not that many. Shall we name the "states," made "states" postwar even if they didn't "experience" "war," but in which place or places some million or so Jews resided and had done so for some many many many many centuries in "harmony" with their neighbors. Let's start. Cuz they were a little bit like Tamils. A little bit apart.
Libya, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Morocco. Sure. I'm sure I'm forgetting some. But they weren't forgotten. Because "nation building" where they lived in those decades say, 1945-1985 demanded linguistic hegemony of the majority people, no a gradual or not so gradual forced flushing of this most unfortunate importuned minority. They had to go! They had to get! They had to git! Git up and go! We don't care where. Get it?!
So if there's no history in these places and if there's no memory in these place or of these places or of these people or of their houses and their neighborhoods and their being and their livelihoods, what? Were they there or weren't they there? Does it matter? Because it was a long long time ago. And no one cares any more. No one cares now because there are bigger problems to worry about. Bigger places where we can hang our star. Bigger places to lay the blame whatever that means or says or suggests or posits. Let it be. Ancient history is ancient and not digital. Ancient landscapes. Pretty. But who cares?
So R you're a smart person and you had your higher education in the UK. But you never heard of the Tamils of Matale. There are bigger fish to fry. Bigger things to think about. Bigger and more important and more colorful and quite to the point more attractive to think about. And who wants to think about uncomfortable things that are old history and open old wounds that you were not involved in and certainly you are not bringing up your daughter to be involved in and for sure wouldn't have "approved" of but for real. These things couldn't have happened. No. It's not that they couldn't have happened. They didn't happen. There are so few Tamils in Matale. There are so few Tamils (left) in Matale. But actually sir, it's not like a question of anyone who's "left" in Matale because when people left or were left behind that was a long time ago. So there are Tamils now in Matale (just a few let's say) but they live there we think. We think it's not that they were left there or that they left there. By the way is there a kovil left there? Might that provide us with a physical evidentiality? Something we could pin our conjectures on? Not in Austria. Not in Poland. Not in Germany. Not in Slovakia. Not in Greece. Not in France. Not kovils stupid.
If you don't like being called stupid well who does?! No one likes to be called stupid. And no one likes to be called ignorant. Ignorant and stupid are labels we don't like. They're unpleasant. They make us feel queasy, vulnerable, not delighted or delightful. Angry maybe. Especially when it's about our own country and our own history. We own that don't we? We should own that shouldn't we? We own that or should own that through our knowledge, our learning, our books, the things we were taught. Our well-meaning elders taught us well. They taught us to know. To own. To embrace our country and our history. So what did they forget to tell us, write about, write down, recall, recollect, explain, suggest, report, entertain, remember? And why my dear friend? Why forget to remember? Unpleasantness. Not neatness. Messiness. Uncomfortableness. Discomfort. Hurt. And pain. And unease. And uneasiness. And dis-ease. These are real. How do we deal?
You were a good learner. You were quick to learn which towns had Tamils. Where there were few. Where there were very few. Where few were left or a few left behind. You could tell me posthaste I was wrong. I'm a foreigner. You you you you you you you you you you you you you you live here. You live in this place. You are not a Kuwaiti child taught by a Britisher in the British system who's told "there are a few changes in our curriculum" please remove the pages that cover the "holocaust." For us in Kuwait it didn't happen. We don't want that to have happened. We don't want that in our children's history books. We like British history and the way it's taught but. But. But. We don't want "holocaust," whatever that's supposed to have been, in our curriculum. We are told it's a lie. Look in Wikipedia. Travel and see with your own eyes. You will not see synagogues much less kovils in these cities in Eastern Europe where the Zionist entity says Jews were. They weren't. So. Why waste our children's good brains on lies? Why introduce twisted lies? Why not look at the facts. Where there are Jews today there is violence and war they promulgate. They do it from their base in the Zionist entity and they are backed by the Americans who are their slaves, not allies, because everyone knows how these people distort the truth and enslave others. How they have done this throughout history. How they are the enslavers and how they were making slaves of innocent Germans and Iraqis and all those countries. Like Russia. Which would have been able to get along so much better if it weren't for them. That is, people like Marx.
So can we step back for a moment and regard the truth, truth as we see it, truth as it's written, truth as its televised, truth as it's recorded and the Truth we hear in sermons every Friday or read in our papers written by journalists. Let's be mindful of the truth and regardful of the truth and not let the truth be whitewashed or washed away or lightened or forgotten even if it means we must dig for it, mine it, find it in unexpected places and deduce it from unexpected objects physical or metaphysical.