A new group of students from CMU-Qatar has come to campus for the week; many are old friends from my semester there. I look forward to a week of conversations, sharing, and debate.
Talking about the Middle East with folks from the region felt like I was sawing down a dam that had built constricting my heart. Talking with someone who believed in the beauty of the region not for what it can do for America, but for itself was freeing. I’ve gotten used to a neutered approach to the Middle East in most of my conversations.
A few weeks ago I was talking with an acquaintance, getting rolling on the impact of the protests in Bahrain and Yemen my conversation partner stopped me cold: “Should I be worried?”
And I knew, from her tone and later questions, the answer I gave here would not suffice because she did not see those suffering and rejoicing in the region as being related to her. She only wanted to know if the trouble over there would change how she lived her life. I felt myself withdrawing as I tried to wrap my mind around that attitude towards the rest of the world. Building up walls between myself and the protests, trying to see my conversation partner’s point of view. I think I gave some lame response about the revolutions’ effects on the price of gas and terrorism, then changed the subject.
Talking with friends in love with the region I could feel these barriers imploding. I didn’t have to justify my interest in the region by calling out to American interests; I could follow the news until late at night purely because the Middle East excites me.
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”–Marcel Proust