Today, in one of my many cafe conversations, I met an Israeli woman who is in this country, in Brooklyn, because it offers her the opportunity to meet people of all kinds. She is open to ideas, happy to put down the book she is reading on her rare day off, her precious time away from her new baby, in the hopes that talking to me can bring real-life inspiration.
I shared with her that I have not been to Israel. As a Jew, I did not want to go with the mission of praising and protecting the Chosen People. I wanted to see the long-polarized region whole, to go when I could also visit an Arab country or at least areas of Arab peoples, to see both sides. I am ready to go. I finally have a friend in Beirut, I told her. Her eyes got sad as she told me that she cannot visit Lebanon, that Lebanese people cannot visit Israel. But she has heard it's beautiful...
I am naive. I cannot believe it takes a U.S. passport to have the right to go anywhere. I have to be reminded of that often. Like today, or like in the early 90s when my American friend, who runs free elections in Asia, was airlifted out of Cambodia right away with the other Americans during a coup. I reminded this friend of the time being American saved her ass when, in her hatred of Bush, she thought of renouncing her citizenship.
But it is so wrong to keep people out of other countries,so dumb if you have any desire for peace, ever. It is so easy to hate people you are not allowed to know, to fail to appreciate the beauty of cultures from which you are banned. It is what starts holocausts, not ends them. We close our eyes enough to the people right around us, creating borders that can't be crossed is asinine.
But history is our precedent much as we like to forget: minds are easily manipulated. It happens every day in ways we don't even question. Even to me, who wrote about marketing for a decade, who should know better. None of us are impervious. People were so happy to believe Obama's simple promise of "Change," few questions asked, though the ability to do so is much, much, much easier said than done. Champagne corks popped on election night, way too early for my taste. People are also so happy to pay more to buy organic foods 'cause marketers and media have managed to make the term synonymous with "good," like "Christian" for the believers. So few know why it's good or even if it is. They just want to believe. They pay more to ease their minds. Would that it were that easy. Reality check: it's impossible to achieve organic on a mass scale, despite what Wal-Mart says. And even if people don't care, if they are the kind who have no qualms about snagging the last lifeboat, it should be said that the moniker is used more often than it could possibly be true. The media will only out people every so often, since the story is boring after the hundredth headline, and the government has bigger fish to fry, but it is a fact. I can say that now that I am not on anyone's masthead.
Speaking about the lies people love to believe, my new Israeli friend told me a funny story she'd heard about free-range chickens, for whose eggs and bodies people pay a premium.
"Do you know," she said, "that because they are so used to being together, when the door to the cage is opened, the chickens don't actually leave?" She laughed. "The door is open, but they don't leave."
"That is classic," I said. "Perfect analogy to life: people just want to know that the door to possibility is open, they don't even necessarily have to go through it...We'll pay more for the possibility that something's better, even if somewhere deep inside we know it's probably not."
Maybe, though, just having the freedom to run, even if they don't, makes chickens taste better. I could believe that, I want to. "Free-range is a mental state.." sounds like a great bumper sticker for my Subaru.