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Saturday, July 23, 2011

An Israeli, an Iranian, an Afghan, and an Irishman walked into bar...

An Israeli, an Iranian, an Afghan, an Egyptian, a Pakistani, an Irishman and a Syrian walked into a bar...

and it was just another normal, hilarious night at the bar.

My favorite scenes from Aspen this summer so far (and I'm betting they won't be beat) are the ones described above.

I will never forget. Never. I saw the future. Dare I believe it? I do.

Oh, and American or two. Given everything, we're the toughest ones to add into the mix. Odd, isn't it. Ironic. Given our view of ourselves, and our views of the world.

True confession: I am a bleeding heart liberal, if by that you mean a sentimental idealist who believes all things are possible EVEN given the complexity of human personalities and global politics.

My sentiments have been sorely tested. By all the usual things we could tick off right now. And also, sadly, by friends who give up on friendship or choose not to be bothered by those who are too different than themselves. It's a tough world out there. Wear a helmet.

But. Still in all. I saw it with my own eyes. Now, to be clear, it was only a small group. And an elite one at that. I did not see just any old Israeli, or Iranian, or Afghan, or Irishman, or American walk into a bar, I saw particular ones with a particular slant on things. A slant that says "yes" to being open, who says "yes" to listening, to speaking carefully, to being generous in their assessments and looks with new eyes at the habitation of his or her neighbors. And their needs.

I saw it. And it was the most beautiful sight in the world. The laughter, the silence as everyone thoughtfully considered another's idea, the more laughter, and more laughter. The eyes that looked carefully into another's. The ears that in some cases were rather larger than others but that mattered not at all, only what those ears did was important. And mouths that smiled big and long and crazily and lovingly, or kindly.
It was the most beautiful sight I've ever seen. After that I decided I'd skip my usual trek up to the Maroon Bells and then to Ashcroft. I'd seen it all.

Last night I saw and heard and felt the opposite. At my favorite bookstore. Pro-Israeli Jews insisting "there are no good Arabs," "there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim." When asked about Arabs in general, the speaker could only make reference to terrorism, nothing else. When asked if a positive Arab character could appear in one of the author's books, as a collaborator on a project with his clearly Israeli protagonist, he laughed at me. "No!" When asked if he could write a scene in which Arabs and Jews were depicted in one of their many cooperative, peace-making ventures he laughed again. I thought I might need a body guard. Daggers. The rest of the audience shot daggers with their eyes. Not quite the picture I was going for. Or expected, frankly, in this relatively well-educated community. Who knew.

As I reported in my last blog post, I walked out of my local indie book store and blah blah blah... whatever it was.

Last night I walked out of my local indie book store. Period.

I'm not sure when I'll go back.

I would much rather gather up an Israeli, an Iranian, an Afghan, an Irishman, an Egyptian, a Syrian and an American and walk into a bar.
There would be sisterhood and brotherhood and a lot of laughter.

Of course, we could meet up at the Tattered Cover. I just hope Gabriel Allon won't be around.

Salaam. Shalom. Paz. Peace.

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