As you might imagine, during these times I am coming up against quite a lot of anti-Israel sentiment and feel - as many of us do - compelled to try and provide counterarguments to at least balance things out, directing people towards sources of reading that might provide information that their own media don't. That kind of thing. (In case you're wondering, this blog post isn't going to be about politics or war, it just raised something interesting for me in terms of writing.)
So, anyway, today I stumbled upon a Facebook discussion about the situation here and I realised something: the one person who was attempting to persuade the rest of Israel's point of view was doing it with facts and figures: this is how long X has been going on, this is how many rockets Y has fired etc... Yet, the others were expressing how they felt about the situation, about how many people had been killed. Facts versus emotion? A losing battle. Is anyone going to be persuaded to change how they feel, their gut reaction, by statistics? I don't think so. Logical arguments versus passion and belief?
OK, how does this tie in to writing? It happened that today I was critiquing a short story and I had to keep stopping to write in the margin: "Too technical" or "This sounds like journalism". I won't go into specifics but there were so many facts that it sounded like the author was trying to teach me something, and that is not what I feel literature should be for. The most beautiful and touching passages in this story were the ones where the author wrote about people, what they thought, how they reacted to the situation. Emotion. That is what touches me as a reader: human responses to situations. Yes, there are probably a minimum number of facts that are necessary to set the scene, but after that, I don't want to be taught anything, to be informed. I get irritated, it throws me out of the narrative, it confuses the narrative. Don't confuse and irritate your reader!
I can see how those on the receiving end of many facts and figures about the conflict here might similarly be irritated and confused. They are expressing emotion and are met with numbers? So, when I respond, which I am trying not to do too much because it is very exhausting and distressing, I talk about how it all makes me feel, and that what I am feeling can be more than one thing at a time, can be compassion as well as concern for security.
This was excellently expressed in my opinion in this article from the Huffington Post in which Marty Kaplan talks about how his feelings change with every newscast, every picture he sees from Israel or Gaza, everyone he hears interviewed. We humans are complicated, we are able to feel more than one emotion at a time, and this is not just permitted it should be celebrated - otherwise we would all be Star Trek's Mr Spock. We are irrational and passionate. The greatest literature is that which manages somehow to convey this ambiguity, this mess, this lack of clarity. Nothing in this world is ever black and white, and that, surely, is what makes it interesting.