I have been thinking about Anwar Sadat lately. Mr. Sadat was a flawed human being, as we all are. But this flawed man, in spite of the history and the outrage on both sides, went to Israel and spoke his heart.
Every day my radio brings new details of international conflict. Each scene described by the non-committal voices of the newsreaders resonates in me, in my own, private life which is on fire at every front. Solutions seem unreachable.
My entire family, my home, old friends, my work. There are long histories of imperfect perceptions, misguided responses, and unresolved grievance. I am neither an innocent victim nor a selfish villain. I had only the best intentions yet I have much to answer for and much to repair.
To make peace if only in my own heart, I must start somewhere. I step away from details—the “who shot John” as they say—and start with what I believe.
I believe that none of us comes to conflict with clean hands. I believe that there are issues that have never been named or precisely stated, even silently to ourselves. I believe that some one has to be first to say so.
Someone has to be the first to make the call, write the letter, ring the doorbell. One of us must say, “Let’s face this. Together, let us name this thing. Let us rewrite history if we have to, because the future must be different.” The suffering cannot go on. We cannot go on. I cannot go on.
While working on some family history, my research touched on the Balkans, the Ottomans, the Inquisition, the Irish Troubles, the American Revolution, The Native American Trail of Tears, various ethnic cleansings, 1920s Palestine, and Israel today. What I learned is that every group has a reason for outrage: The Jews, the Greeks, the Armenians, the Orthodox, the Protestants, the Arabs, the Cherokee, the Irish and yes, the Turks and the British. We all participated in some dirty deeds during these old conflicts. History is still informing the conflicts of today—both personal and political. We need to clear it up.
My dream is that we come together—somehow, somewhere. One by one, each of us says what we did without explanations or apologies. The speaker then hears each of us respond, “Thank you for your brave honesty. I understand you had your reasons.” Just that: No recriminations. Then, perhaps, peace can begin.
That is what I want in my own personal battles. The question is not will I join in, or where should we do this, but who will be the first to speak up. I do not want to be that one, myself. It scares me greatly. Nevertheless, with this essay, I am clearing my throat, because… this I believe…somebody has to go first.
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