I have been busy reading EBooks on my new reader. I am now reading, “Walking the Bible: A Journey By Land Through the Five Books of Moses” by Bruce Feiler. Feiler decided that his understanding of the Bible would be greatly enriched if he personally visited many of the places mentioned in the first five books of the Bible—the Books of Moses. He made his journey by foot, by jeep, by canoe and by camel. He begins his journey in Turkey, asking questions about Noah’s Ark. Feiler’s book is rich in details about the importance of water in man’s creations—from references to a “watery chaos” out of which God created earth, to how rivers transformed former Bedouin migrants into farming settlements on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. His guide tells him that “rivers give life,” and that “water precedes everything.” It was plenty of water, the Great Flood, that ended one cycle of human history and began another. After God instructed Abraham to leave Haran and “go forth” into Canaan to become “a father of many nations,” God became disenchanted with man and told Noah to build an ark. Noah obeyed and set sail for seven months… “And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.” Feiler is told that because of localized conflicts that no one is allowed to climb Mr. Ararat. Feiler then finds a scholarly guide and begins his journey across Turkey.
On page 19 Feiler speaks about his decent into the Kurdish stronghold town of Diyarbakir, one of the oldest cities on earth, dating back 5000 years. He then says this: “For all its greatness, (Diyarbakir) is chokingly grim today, a mix of concrete buildings around a dilapidated town core. With half a million residents, Diyarbakir boasts a handful of impressive mosques and a market selling carpets, spices, and Medusa-like shags of cheap belts. In this day, the heat baked the bananas and the garlicky meat, mixing them with diesel exhaust into a noxious perfume. But the source of delight, and good aroma, was the hundreds of plump watermelons spilled from every flat surface. Sprung from the Tigris and fertilized by pigeon droppings, the fruit is the town’s trademark. This week a watermelon festival was under way. Driving into town we passed a fifty-foot obelisk with a giant, papier-mâché watermelon impaled on the top; it reminded of a Claes Oldenburg sculpture of an olive on a toothpick.”
Imagine that–a town in modern day Turkey that celebrates the “water” melon? Imagine that—descendants of people who have continuously occupied the birthplace of humanity, Mesopotamia, now Turkey and Iraq, celebrating a fruit that was a “gift of the fertile waters?” What would a southern redneck have to say about this? An online history of the watermelon says this: “The watermelon is thought to have originated in southern Africa, where it is found growing wild. It reaches maximum genetic diversity there, with sweet, bland and bitter forms. The plant has been cultivated in Egypt since at least the 2nd millennium BC and by the 10th century AD had reached India and China. It later spread into southern Europe and on into the New World. In the 7th century, watermelons were being cultivated in India and by the 10th century had reached China, which is today the world’s single largest watermelon producer.” Nutrition-wise the watermelon contains about 6% sugar and 91% water. As with many other fruits, it is a good source of vitamin C and is low in fat and sodium. Watermelon rinds are also edible, but most people avoid eating them due to their unappealing flavor. They are used for making pickles, and sometimes used as a vegetable. The seeds have a nutty flavor and can be dried and roasted, or ground into flour. In China, the seeds are esteemed and eaten like almonds are in the west, being consumed with other seeds at Chinese New Year celebrations. The rind is stir-fried, stewed, and often pickled, and, pickled watermelon rind is also sometimes eaten in the Southern U. S. The watermelon juice can be made into wine, on its own or blended with other fruits.”
Now consider place this rich and rarely known history of the watermelon alongside the debasing, insulting, racist portrayal of the watermelon when eaten by an African American. Now I ask who is the ignorant, stupid, white, southern, American fool? Imagine some white bigot taking a trip to Turkey and finding a reason to laugh at Diyarbakir’s watermelon festival or the fifty-foot obelisk. Imagine such a fool! Where did such white ignorance come from? China is now the world’s largest producer of watermelons. Imagine that? Imagine some ignorant southern bigot making a watermelon caricature of a Chinese businessman and a watermelon? Imagine that? Now imagine who will be left looking like a dumb white fool?
Copyright 2014 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.