Friday, November 20, 2015

Traveling on a Wing and a Prayer

My partner, Susan, has been enjoying a week-long whirlwind visit to Morocco. She got a good deal to fill out a tour group and is traveling with friends from home (the Duluth contingent comprises seven of the 40 spots on the tour). She's been having a blast, squeezing out one more week of mild weather in North Africa before the onset of winter in northern Minnesota (where many are cold but few are frozen).

She's in Casablanca tonight, in position to start her return journey at 5 am, when the bus is scheduled to collect everyone from the hotel and take them to the airport. What with crossing six time zones, tomorrow was setting up to be a long day anyway: three flights and 30 hours long.

Her day was only 15 minutes old, however, when Air France sent her a brief message indicating that her journey home was going to be more complicated than expected: her flight from Casablanca to Paris had just been cancelled. Presumably this is related to tightened security in the wake of Wednesday's police raid that resulted in a firefight and the death of Abdelhamid Abaaoud—the alleged ringleader of the Nov 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.

While Casablanca is a long way from Paris, it appears there will be no commercial flights through the capital of France tomorrow. 

While I'm sure that Susan will be rerouted through another European city and will ultimately get home safely, it's sobering to realize how far terrorism can disrupt lives. Of course, having your flight cancelled is trivial compared to the loss of 130 lives in the attacks of a week ago, yet it's instructive to understand how far the shock waves extend.

It also makes me wonder about our chances to resolve differences peaceably. Terrorists have given up on that possibility, even to the point of suicide bombers and sacrificing one's life to gain attention for their grievances. It is a terrible price to pay and it makes me wonder how people can get that angry and that desperate. 

A lot of this hinges, I think, on the question of how much people with privilege are aware of it and are willing to have that be on the table—how much we're willing to look at the advantages we have enjoyed by virtue of being born Americans, white, male, heterosexual, Protestant, to parents with money, etc. 

On the international level, the US runs the show, often to the detriment of other countries and other cultures (whence the bumper stickers, "How did our oil get under their sand?"). If we see this as God's largesse, then terrorist attacks will continue. (While I abhor violence, I can appreciate the frustration that leads to it when more peaceful methods consistently fail to get someone's attention.) If, on the other hand, we're willing to start talking about how there's only one Earth and we have to make the best of it together, then there's a chance for a different, less militant outcome. But I don't see much evidence at the national level that we're willing to give up our privilege, or even to question the outrageous assumption that we're God's chosen people.

On the community level, I run into this same dynamic when it comes to race, class, and sexual discrimination. It even shows up on the personality level—people who are soft spoken, good listeners, and patient tend to be more welcome and more successful in community then the demonstrative, outspoken, and let's-get-'er-done types. To be sure, I don't see suicide bombers in community, or even much threat of physical violence, but there is plenty of frustration with intolerance or the lack of a willingness to look within for signs of unconscious discrimination. There's plenty of room for all of us to get better at meeting people halfway, rather than insisting that conversations be held in our preferred mode—essentially requiring that others come to us as a precondition for meaningful dialog.

The truth is, we are not particularly good as a species at getting along with people who are other than we are. As a process consultant to cooperative groups I am regularly called upon to demonstrate what getting along with each can look like, helping people find bridges they couldn't see. Will the peacemaking that I'm undertaking in intentional communities ultimately lead to a world without terrorism? 

I don't know, but I think it could and I have to try. Meanwhile, I pray for world peace. And while I'm at it, I'll take a moment to pray for Susan's safe return.


Susan said...

Well said Laird.

vera said...

"Will the peacemaking that I'm undertaking in intentional communities ultimately lead to a world without terrorism?"

No, because the terror is primarily caused by psychopathic elites and their enablers who thrive on conflict.

But if we each do our bit, I think it's a powerful and hopeful way forward. Whatever happens.

SOOZ said...

Thank you for all you do Laird....and what you say.

Anonymous said...

As a Mennonite peace is very important - but I am really struggling with recent events since peace and negotiation may not option