The Middle East Showed Me a Window into America That I Did Not Wish to Look Through.
Some years ago, I had the opportunity to travel throughout most of Israel, and with a bit of deliberate violation of the strictures of my passport, some areas of Lebanon under Hezbollah control.
I was with an international group of military officers, not a US group, and so I travelled pretty much a different path than most American tourists.
I went through the myriad of checkpoints, wandered through Arab neighborhoods, spoke at length with Israelis and Palestinians.
Two dominant thoughts were embedded in my head as I left the region:
One, there are a lot of people throughout the region, of various ethnicities and persuasions, who just want to live their lives and be left alone. They may feel to one degree or another that many of their problems are caused by “others,” but for the most part, they are not really looking for a fight – they just felt trapped.
Two, the so-called leaders of these peoples had failed miserably and had trapped their people in endless conflict. Arafat had the chance to make a peace and bring his people into something resembling hope and normalcy. Instead, he left them to petty warlords and fanatics who will likely bleed them for generations more.
Israeli leaders since Perrin have increasingly been further tied down by the fragmented politics of modern Israel that makes any sort of political courage a suicide mission. None have chosen a path that could possibly lead to peace in anyone’s lifetime. The current government clearly has no interest in any such future.
I left thinking, “Where does this end? How does this get resolved? Will these people ever know peace and a promising future? None of them are leaving – they are stuck with each other. Break the cycle or damn your children to lives of danger and despair.”
Can We Think Differently and Work Together?
Then it seems I took a long nap, woke up in 2017 America, and found myself asking the same questions of my own country. In too many ways, the similarities are disturbingly similar. Reinforced by the dark side of social media and TV tuned to our particular political tribes, it seems we are at a time wherein the other side is not just wrong, but is morally depraved, without any hope of redemption or of working together on anything. Really? Is that where we choose to be for eternity?
The disagreements are real and so many of the fights are valid, but our readiness to write off anything or anyone that is liberal or conservative (or whatever conservative is in the Trump era) seems to me a formula for hopelessness, perpetual warfare, and complete reversals of national policy with every election. We can do better than this.
In some later posts, we will examine how we might start to build some bridges, as well as some barricades; I’m not advocating anyone disarm here, but we might find a little more honest and patient conversation might be useful.
This country was founded on the amazing concept that we could be quite different in so many ways yet could come together as Americans when we needed to do so.
That proposition is at risk.
I am interested in connecting those who think this is important enough to reach out – and defeating those who don’t.
What do you think, America?