The Happiest Place on Earth

Dissociation. It’s not a word I use often or a feeling I’m particularly familiar with but the term walks through a door in my mind as I watch Donald Duck do a little dance at Disneyland and think: end simulation.

The unspoken command is internally uttered because reality has to be some kind of programme gone awry. It makes no sense to be watching Mickey, Donald, Tigger, Eeyore and Pooh dancing on a float decked out for Halloween when in the same world, on the same day, there is a war raging, children dying and no end in sight.

This feeling of unreality is heightened by Disneyland Paris’ absolute riot of youth. The running, squealing, sugarcoated kids who are kindred in the innocence of Palestinian children being murdered in Gaza, who have been killed in Israel and who know little of the adult world where their fate is decided in response to religious beliefs, land claims, dispossession, occupation, hatred and the ceaseless stream of attack and defence, defence and attacks escalating and ebbing since before the beginning of their brief lives.

Outside the Parisian theme park’s paid boundaries, in a fringe of souvenir shops and fast food joints, my companions and I watch the French military appear as if out of nowhere, merging into the crowd milling to and from Disneyland with rifles at the ready.

In Montmartre, a few days earlier, we’d seen the same and a delighted young Parisian girl had cried “Militaire!” before being shushed by her mother. One of the soldiers, clearly amused by her youthful lack of restraint, cracked a smile and flashed a wink as they pushed on through the throng sightseeing below the Sacré-Coeur.

Days later as tensions increase, the death toll in Gaza becomes even more unconscionable, allegiances solidify and the rhetoric escalates to unbridled hate, nobody smiles or calls out. Not young girls or the armed forces.

Instead, the soldiers making their way towards Disneyland seem to briefly catch one’s eye before looking through and beyond you, searching for the kind of security threats that prompt Paris to evacuate the Louvre, Gare de Lyon and the Palace of Versailles the following day.

In Disneyland, it’s business as usual.

I join a 30-minute queue to experience ‘Peter Pan’s Flight’ and think that, like the leader of the Lost Boys, the children fatally caught in the crossfire of the current conflict in Gaza and Israel will never grow up.

While much can be said about the history of the region, how we got here, the rightful owners of the land, the decades of occupation and the movement to free Palestine, what one can unequivocally appreciate is that the cost of this conflict is too great.

The murdering of Israelis, the killing of Palestinian children and civilians en masse in a barrage of bombardments is too much.

The fact that this is ongoing is a global point of shame.

It is a chilling devaluation of human life and the irreparable harm to our spirits and psyches as we extend how long we are willing to stay silent and how far we are willing to go for our religions, to claim land, to ascertain dominance and seek vengeance cannot be overstated.

The calls to cease fire and rush to the negotiation tables have not been swift and loud enough. The condemnation of such violence and death has not prompted sufficient action, lifesaving, protection and help.

There are many ways in which the world has failed Palestinians before; let us not fail them now. Let us not fail the Israelis and people of all creeds and cultures held hostage in Gaza. Let us mourn all those who have been lost to this.

It is not anti-Semitic to want peace.

It is not anti-Semitic to want Palestinians, so many of them children, to survive and be free.

It is human.

Watching kids from all over the world run wild at Disneyland, the so-called ‘Happiest Place on Earth’, I know that the key to our humanity and to the end of this lies with the children.

We must remember their innocence, we must honour their right to grow up, ideally amid their families, then hope against hope that they do better than we have.

–; Martha Mukaiwa on Twitter and Instagram;

Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –
Subscribe Now!

Latest News