“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a notion without accepting it.” – Aristotle
So, the MEPI program.
So far it’s been shaping up to be a rather momentous event in my life, perhaps for reasons other than the ones planned for us. It’s interesting to feel the tension that erupts when the Palestine/israel conflict is mentioned. I mean, yeah, this is America, of course they feel vastly different about the issue than we do. But, somewhere between the time at the hotel and settling down in Georgetown, we sort of forgot that we’re now living and learning inside the most controversial nation our region has had to deal with.
However, it’s not the classes or activities that interest me. The social media workshop was pretty interesting, and finding out about our traits in the leadership retreat was fascinating. But, they are structured lectures, given to us by older people. I feel like I’m in elementary school sometimes, which can get really frustrating.
No, the part that is really grasping my attention is the interactions with the students from other countries. There is no teacher hovering around, giving us a topic to discuss. There is no time limit, or a specific place we have to meet. It’s just randomly sitting with youth my age, who I can relate with, and just talking.
I’ve never met an Algerian before, or a Saudi Arabian woman. I’ve never spoken about the situation in Palestine with a Palestinian. And now here I am, interacting with Arabs from different countries, and talking about religion and politics, no less. It’s profound.
There have been some issues. Since we still all don’t know each other that well, sometimes people get offended or insulted by something someone said. I think (or hope) this will reduce as we continue to interact with each other. I would like them to know that I admire them greatly, both in their characters and their beliefs, regardless of whether I am for or against their positions on different issues. I know that some topics can be sensitive, but I think we are all at a mental level where we can deal with it.
Tonight many of us were sitting in one of the apartments and talking, as usual. And as usual, we began debating about a topic. I don’t know how, but it ended up being about Gadhafi’s death. The group was saying that his death was violent and wrong, it was against Islam, etc. Yeah, no shit. We’re Muslims and human beings to, believe it or not. (See, that was basically my attitude at first, really egocentric and full of attitude). We the Libyans were defending our position, sort of angry at the judgement we were getting because we celebrated Gadhafi’s death. It got pretty heated.
Then our mentor David tried to moderate it, saying, “Find common ground”. So we tried.
And it was pretty interesting.
When I speak about Gadhafi, I am of course not going to be objective about it. I try to make people understand how much we suffered and what we went through, and I get impatient when it’s not getting through. But it was (I don’t wanna say interesting again but) to argue from a different perspective, to find common ground. I felt that we were more, if not understanding, at least not frustrated with how the debate was going.
The revolution happened one year ago. There are things I still don’t know how to feel about. The revolution changed my entire outlook on life. I’m still trying to grasp the repercussions it has had on my character. I don’t know if these debates are helping or harming me, but I’ll risk it. Henry David Thoreau said that no man ever followed his genius til it mislead him, and I think this can be applied to self discovery. I know this is sounding incredibly trite, but I can’t help it. Be who you are, and so on.
There is so much more, but I’m going to end it with a picture of the 4th of July fireworks, which we attended yesterday. I could write an entire other post on the correlation between the meaning of independence to different nations, and what I noticed between this event here and the one we had back home. But that’s for another day.