Recently I read an article questioning the practice of using U.S. military bases to train troops from various Middle Eastern countries. And up through the annals of my foggy memory arose a long forgotten incident....
The time was the early 1980's and I was living in a small Wisconsin town on the southern Wisconsin/Northern Illinois border, where my then husband ran a small business out of our house. On this day of my remembrance, I was lolling around on the couch in the living room, recuperating from recent surgery.
In saunters this tall, gorgeous, Omar Shariff of a man, who drops himself into a chair, then turns to me and begins this diatribe against America and Americans. The friend, with whom he'd arrived, had come to see my ex- which left this fellow waiting. Finding himself alone with this lazy young woman, with time on his hands, maybe he figured he'd practice his "impressing the natives" skills.
There was no real threaten emanating from this man, and he didn't frighten me. As a young woman I was nothing to him, and the listless deliverance of his little speech struck me as the repetition of a script he hadn't written, one he merely droned on by rote - automatic, killing time.
What was most curious, though, was this man's admission to being in the U.S. as the guest of the American government. He was part of a group of Iraqi military officers who were being housed and provided advanced military training at the Great Lakes Naval Base, located in North Chicago, Illinois.
From my home, the base was only a twenty minute drive across the border into Illinois. These guys were apparently riding around on what was a gorgeous Saturday, checking out the infidels.
Funny, once he got his hatred speech delivered and out of the way, he went on to talk about his quarters at Great Lakes. And what he found the most amazing, was how strange it was to actually have, of all things, his own bathroom with its very own shower and tub.
He did not discuss this topic in a critical manner, finding yet more fault with the fattened, spoiled infidels, but with the enthusiasm of someone who has been presented a genuinely happy surprise - he can bathe or shower whenever he wanted to, right there at his room!
For that moment, the millions of light years that normally would have separated us was reduced to the few feet of that Wisconsin living room. We were simply two people who appreciated having access to such a wonderful convenience.
Hate is not factored into our DNA; it is a learned response to a continuing ration of fear, to constant propaganda. We are taught to hate and the only way it's going to be conquered is to break the cycle - stop programming our world's children to carry on their ancestors' hatreds. Teach them the truth, that living your life in fear is not living, it only serves to keep you under someone else's control, doing someone else's dirty work.
Teach them the power of forgiveness, the gift given by those who know the immeasurable value of life, that all life is divine. It is in each and every one of us, this ability to honor our humanity and it is this we must nurture in our children, while there's still time.
Who knows what happened to that tall, handsome man? Born and raised in a land where a large dose of hatred was served daily since birth, his rant against this country was a well conditioned response. And there was indeed validity to much of what he raved against, though it was the government's policies that should have garnered his wrath.
Of course, I was sitting there, not the president or a member of Congress. His complaints could only fall upon my ears, no doubt even more frustrating to him.
Yet there was also inside him this more open man, one who loved having a tub and shower in his bathroom. For who doesn't? And in the final analysis, it is this connected human-ness - the pleasures that can be found in this so often painful, hurtful life, that is the true indicator of our honest nature. Such a little thing, yet so amazing.
I would like to offer a simple suggestion: Instead of continuing to bomb the people of Iraq, killing their sons and daughters, destroying what little they have managed to claim as their own in their difficult, dangerous lives, why don't we build them homes with bathrooms that have their own tubs and showers? What do we have to lose?