Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What is to Be Done?

A year ago today, at this hour, I was on a plane coming home to New York. I'd been travelling for nearly a month in eastern Turkey and Syria, and had saved Istanbul for last, thinking that I'd be rewarding myself for the adventure with its cosmopolitan pleasures. Things turned out rather differently.

I went because it was as far as my frequent flyer miles would take me from JFK (I stretched by connecting with Turkish Air from Istanbul to Urfa on the way over) and because I had become uncomfortable with the growing gap between who I was at 16 (and I'm actually surprised and a little tickled to discover that I still retain enough of my paranoia and self-importance from the time to hesitate to name my activities) and who, decades later, I had become (about which I'm actually too boring and therefore and too embarrassed to elaborate).

Suffice it to say that by 1980, I might have known all the words to 'L'Internationale' and 'We Should Overcome' but by 2006 I couldn't have told you whether Iraq was majority Sunni or Shia, or which side my own government was taking, in my name.

I figured it was time to reconcile my ideals with my reality, and not being ready to settle down in a trailer in front of a tv, that left getting up and going over.

(I wonder, as I write this, how many American soldiers may have been motivated by something similar).

There is much more to say. Here is one statement about US engagement in the middle east that actually deserves a wider audience. My thanks to a new friend, for bringing it to my attention.

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