Thursday, April 5, 2012

Post #234 - End of a Journey

Final entry in my trip diary in 2006:

Katherine Fulkerson, on the left, with Iranians
Flight-time: 1:25 am. Katherine Fulkerson was my “buddy” for the last leg of the trip. A women who has done a number of adventurous things in her later years, such as traveling to teach children in Vietnam, Katherine may have been the seniormost member of the group, but she had approached every new experience with the kind of open-eyed attentiveness that I see in my youngest grandchildren – one of the least jaded persons I have ever met. Retired from her professional field (physics), she lives in a round house in the woods outside Louisville, KY. She met every new person with an openness and delight that contrasted so sharply with the intransigence and the official rhetoric on both sides of the current impasse.

As we sped toward out homes in the United States, I think many of us wondered why it should have been so utterly impossible, during the long years of the Islamic Republic's existence, to have developed a mechanism for our two peoples to communicate, to understand one another and to forge a way to work on common problems, even as each disagreed with the other, and as each changes and evolves. Neither country is the same as it was when the Islamic Revolution took place, yet both sometimes act as though we are frozen in that time and circumstances.

Sandra Mackey said (in her book, The Iranians: Persia, Islam and the Soul of a Nation) of US-Iran relations:

"Current American policy on Iran began in that calamitous year of 1979 when the fall of Muhammed Reza Shah left the United States stunned and adrift in the crucial Persian Gulf. When disciples of Ayatollah Khomeini captured the American Embassy, anger took over from confusion. And anger and confusion have led four administrations to flounder in what is in essence a rudderless boat carrying the vital interests of the United States."

To update Mackey’s assessment, one need only increase the number to six administrations. I think that in the current impasse, our diplomats would do well to try to understand the words of the great Sufi thinker Jalaludin Rumi: “Do not look at my outward shape/ But take what is in my hand.” The signals coming from Iran have contained both assertiveness and flexibility, both stubbornness and nuances of possible compromise. Can we get past the one, to build on the other? Rumi wrote:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.

It is hard not to be discouraged when the newspapers continually bring reports of misunderstanding, prejudice and intractability on the part of our leaders, but what alternative do we have but to persevere?

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