Friday, August 12, 2016

The Appeal of “Stronger Together” --


--- broke through my fear, despair and confusion.

I'd been in a slump for months; emotionally exhausted/burned out, a distressing place I'd not experienced before that I can remember.

First off an eye emergency crisis broke out for me in late March. (Last week, after five months with that crisis, surgery started to move the situation onto a healing path that I hope will mark improvement.) Also, during this same time I had gotten myself into a pattern of overworking; somewhat survival-driven which is unlike my norm. 

But overshadowing these, by the time the Democratic National Convention came full circle, I was realizing that for months I'd been functioning under a dark cloud of massive fear and despair. Never before had I ever viewed my privilege of being American-born this way.

Donald Trump was the source!

Previously, America had always been "the home of the free and the brave" for me. Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and the words of Emma Lazarus, 
"Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” 
had been emblazoned on my heart and soul. The America I loved had been the port of salvation, welcoming my immigrant grandparents to its shores, the protecting haven that made a safe, new home for them as they fled their European oppressors.

But over the past months of this year, as the presidential election campaign revved up, I felt this haven being torn apart.

In the depths of my psyche I began to fear a new Hitler, personified by Donald Trump, coming to power in the United States; the potential for increasing divisiveness, hatred and racism barking at our doors. As Donald Trump's favoritism soared, I was growing more and frightened to the very core of my being.

And then, too, Hillary had not been an enviable choice either for the highest leadership position in the land. Many a grudge did I carry regarding her, especially for her denigration of other women, personified most deliberately in the fall of Monica Lewinsky, by virtue or lack thereof, in Lewinsky’s involvement with Bill Clinton. Not unlike that of Camille Cosby, another woman in similar circumstances that I have had difficulty respecting.

Terrorist attacks, police brutality of African-American men and then the retaliation against the police rounded off my fear and despair.

There seemed no place to turn; the demise of America as I knew it was coming. And just as with my eye crisis I felt helpless to affect circumstances while a darkness I'd never known before swept over each day, worsening them as they proceeded forward toward their culmination in the coming November election; a zenith of that darkness and perhaps the apex of a growing deterioration of the America I loved!

Certainly a worsening of circumstances was in the offing as I viewed them.

But then came the Democratic National Convention, following on the heels of Donald Trump’s doom and gloom views of America at the Republican National Convention.  And, at last, I saw daylight in the midst! 

Hillary’s campaign slogan, “Stronger Together,” reinforced a belief I had long held, as in – “It takes a village.” The people of America had been “stronger together” for centuries and we would be still.

Even under the faux leadership of such as Donald Trump this nation of “compassionate warriors” cannot be defeated. We can pull together for that which democracy has stood since it’s official beginnings, “Love trumps hate.”

The Appeal of “Stronger Together” and it’s congruence with what I viewed in the demeanor of speakers at the Democratic National Convention had broken through my fear, despair and confusion.

Once again, though now a registered Independent, I would vote Democrat and feel good about my choice!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

These Turbulent Times Have Left Me Speechless


“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”  
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
For me this is a season to be quiet in public as I watch and wait and spend my days, privately, trying to put gentleness first in my life; next to my ceaseless quest for Divine Guidance, amidst tumultuous days that I am trying to see simply as Divine Chaos.  

But serenity and gentleness do not come easily, probably not to anyone else either, these days.

On my end, my way up came when I finally embraced the astrological symbolism of Mars being retrograde; a planetary pattern I had not knowingly encountered previously. Maybe it brought the recent upset into my life. 

What I read of Mars Retrograde corresponded, time wise, almost exactly to a heavy onslaught of turbulence entering my life. Then escalating into high drive by the time another eye crisis almost completely upended the joy I was experiencing in my new found visual clarity.   

It has been one upheaval after another since.  Until I read about Mars retrograde straightening itself out, as my daily astrology report informed me that it would, I wondered if I wasn’t heading full force into my own demise. “Just a matter of days,” I told myself, as I fearfully awaited the doom of my personal, final earthquake.

Then, upon reading of Mars retrograde, I took another look and began to consider that the upheaval I was experiencing might not be anything personal. In fact, perhaps most people, at least the sensitive ones, might have also been aware of the ground rocking beneath them in that same time frame. Now it is a week or so since Mars made its direction change – and – I’ve got to admit I see all kinds of changes occurring toward the positive in my life, personally; the sheer quantity of little shifts quite striking. 

But then there is Baton Rouge and Minnesota and Dallas – and – the presidential campaigns, heading into high gear, as the RNC and DNC conventions get set to start. And, again I am called to realize how chaotic life is these days and helpless I am, or almost so, up against mass upheaval.

All of this comes to a crescendo in my limited purview of the world, alongside the realization that I am now just about one week before my birthday; a day for me and everyone else best suited to giving honor to the sacredness of one’s life. So I think, as I haven’t had much to say anyway this past month as I dealt with one personal upheaval after another, especially my eye crisis, it is time for me to officially take a vacation from blogging, which I have apparently been doing unofficially.  And give myself time to regroup.

With this in mind, I hope to be reminded, once again, as I rest and rejuvenate and heal from my recent eye crisis, of the one thing I can do, remembering one of Helen Keller’s favorite sayings originating with her friend, Everett Edward Hale –
I am only one, 
But still I am one. 
I cannot do everything, 
But still I can do something; 
And because I cannot do everything, 
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
Look to hear more from me around mid-August or so, unless I am moved to pen a word or two before hand when I will again know the “something that I can do” in this sea of turbulence where I am fairly powerless but not entirely.

 In the meantime, I will be doing my best to be serene and gentle up here in the mountains. And, hope to return with a filled reservoir within from which I can, again, speak out on the many reasons and experiences I’ve had that tell me that we MUST make it a a top priority– that we get used to talking to one another – and -- just keep talking to one another to get our societal problems resolved or on the way to solved, no matter what; African American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian and white, Muslim, Christian and Jew etc. etc.!

Without our politicians!!!  They are no where near showing us how to come together at this time. Just talk, talk, talk. I'm ready for action! How about you?

See you in September, if not a bit before.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Anastasia’s Back Story On -- (Part II of II)


The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard: 
How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal

Contact: Anastasia at cell: 240.409.5347, email: SuperSleuthDSW@aol.com

Translated into my more modern Jewish American ways these traditions of the shtetl were set, deeply rooted in me, in a value system that carried its way into what I considered to be a life well lived, personally, and as a part of the greater whole of humanity; a manner of living that makes “thinking globally and acting locally” simply a broadened perspective and an imperative born of shtetl life.

In this paradigm forgiveness and reconciliation are viewed as fundamental to the well-lived life; trumping all other endeavors. But the matter transcends merely being at peace with oneself, ones family and friends or neighbor, the greater world around us and with the Divine. The very process of living by these values demands relentless self-analysis, determination and rigorous discipline. Contained within the endeavor lie the many gifts of alchemy; the transformation of our humanity; the evolutionary process of converting the lead within each of us into gold; individually and collectively.

The effort to live by these values, day-by-day, calling up introspection and an ongoing accountability, is an essential part of charity/social justice that begins at home, especially with oneself. The culmination, as I have learned, is the passing forward of these principles to the next generations by living them. In this way the very essence of tikkun olam, the Jewish notion of world repair, comes alive, as it once did in shtetl life on a much smaller scale.

One need only read the text of Jewish High Holiday rituals and prayers to see the principles of forgiveness, reconciliation and, above all, tsdokeh embodied throughout; not just in words uttered during these holy days, but as precepts to be lived during the course of the year as an essential way of being.  What is transformed on the personal level in the application of these ideologies affects, not only the individual, but also the family. What is transformed in the family ripples outward into the community and beyond. This is how it should naturally be, I believe.

The unexpected ways in which these traditional values of my Jewish heritage came to the fore for me and how I came to have them reinforced at a critical time in my life, by simply, and not simply at all, walking myself through a fire of personal challenge, I have come to call the “Jewish/Muslim Controversy” in my backyard that gave me the title for this book, The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard: How Communities Come Apart And How They Heal.

The experience changed my life, both personally and professionally. I hope it will inspire yours.

This book, beyond all else, is a gift to my children and my children’s children. I want them to  know of the yearnings of my heart in a detailed way that only memoir can offer -- and -- how these were formed through the interactional by-play of my personal relationships, those of my community and myself. In this special way I want them to also learn how practically significant, sacred and spiritually awakening my journey has been.

From my effort I want my children to know and live by values that shaped me that I most revere; many of them rooted in the culture of the shtetl. I trust these to be a pathway to the higher levels of human development, family and community well-being and world peace; again tikkun olam.

Not that I believe that the old ways of the shtetl should be embraced, wholesale, but that, as with other traditional cultures in the process of dying out or already having died out, there are things to learn from a heritage, such as this, that can help us live more whole-heartedly and beautifully in our contemporary lives than we could ever dream up on our own, even by plowing through all the knowledge presently archived on the internet.

To read about an ancient or traditional culture is not the same as knowing it in one’s heart and soul. This soulfulness must be preserved, if at all possible. And we, of the generations that can still convey remnants of the shtetl way of life through direct contact, albeit it  second hand, are carriers, perhaps the last, of a great cultural knowledge, wisdom and experience that must be honored, if humanity is to now grow beyond itself.

But how does a shtetl-influenced Wandering Jew such as I had become, by the time of the tale I’m about to tell, make the transition from anti-Semitic Jew, which I had also become, to being once more a “good Jew.”?  This is my tale of how I made the shift and how in effecting it I validated the profound words and thinking of my dear friend, Rabbi Edwin Friedman –

“There is an intrinsic relationship between our capacity to put families together (groups or other organizational systems) and our ability to put ourselves together.”

(Marcia) Anastasia Rosen-Jones
Passover Eve, April 22, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Anastasia’s Back Story On -- (Part I of II)


The Middle East Crisis (In My Backyard: 
How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal

Contact: Anastasia at cell: 240.409.5347, email: SuperSleuthDSW@aol.com

The words tikkun olam, Hebrew for world repair and/or variations on this theme, have come to symbolize a certain philosophy of contemporary Jews. For many of us born around or after World War II these words have become a statement of our pledge that, not only shall we never forget what Hitler exacted of our people but our intention to build, out of this devastation, a world where things such as this would never occur again.

As I am of this generation of Jewish Americans, heavily marked by the persecution suffered by parents and grandparents who fled the oppression of the Czar in Eastern Europe and, in my case, a stepmother who was a German Holocaust survivor, the promise and the pledge of these words have been easily embraced. After all, in our homes we grew up with the stain of these tragedies affecting those closest to us. Thus we too were heavily impacted. As a result social justice and activism come naturally to us as an essential part of daily life. In fact social justice is an intrinsic facet of our heritage, especially that of Eastern Europe.

However, not having heard too much, directly, of the ordeals lived through by my grandparents or my stepmother who I called Mom, those in my family to immigrate to the United States, most of what I know of these trials came to me through the accounts of others more distant; most often from oral and written accounts of people outside my family. In retrospect I see now that the members of my family, rather than telling authentic stories of the difficulties of their lives in the “old country” generally masked their personal experiences of a negative vein with cover stories offered of a more palatable fare, before life in the United States. 

Seldom did they reveal their personal or even collective difficulties. An outward focus on present day life in the United States was the norm. Although on occasion my Mom would share a tale or two from her life in Shanghai, China after fleeing Hitler. Among these was that she and her first husband had fled there in 1939 where they remained until the Liberation in 1946.  By then she had divorced him, justifying her decision on his being unwilling to work in Shanghai where they lived in a refugee camp and knew even doctors to hire themselves out as bicycle messengers.

Even with limited knowledge of what our family members endured, many of us grew up with sensitivity to our elders and the personal wounds they harbored. As young adults, especially in the era of the sixties and seventies up against civil rights, women’s rights and Viet Nam, this understanding could easily find expression in social and political activism.

No doubt it is this inborn activism that prompts my writing of this book. An equal, if not stronger influence on me, also shaping the intent of this book, is that from my biological mother I inherited a natural affinity for shtetl life; its customs and philosophies. The traditional shtetl, long gone from modern life, was originally a small Jewish town or village which existed in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. Shtetl life was typically communal in spirit and carried its own culture in terms of having a language, Yiddish, and traditions, based primarily on the teachings of the Talmud, a central text of Rabbinic Judaism. 

Tsdokeh, a word often used to imply charity, but more accurately denoting social justice, was one of the most important tenets of the cultural values of the Jewish shtetl; the benevolence of good deeds being the “central mechanism by which (the) community” functioned. So supremely important was this value that “good deeds” were seen as basic to being a good Jew.

The Broadway musical, Fiddler On The Roof, depicts a slice of this way of life; a vivid picture of communal life, fraught with interpersonal complexities, yet filled, too, with loyalties, love and laughter, song and celebration.  Tsdokeh underlies all of this.

Yet these distinctive cultures were, not only distinct from other mainstream Eastern Europeans, but were sometimes also poles apart from one another.  One example of this is that there were both Chasidic and non-Chasidic shtetls that often disparaged one another based on their differences. The shtetl of my heritage was definitively Orthodox but non-Chasidic with the Chasids often arousing superstition, even seen as harbingers of evil.

Translated into my more modern Jewish American ways these traditions of the shtetl were set, deeply rooted in me, in a value system that carried its way into what I considered to be a life well lived, personally, and as a part of the greater whole of humanity; a manner of living that makes “thinking globally and acting locally” simply a broadened perspective and an imperative born of shtetl life. 

To be continued.

Conclusion: The Way It’s Supposed To Be, Part III of III


Visit this link to read “Conclusion.”

Read Part I here and Part II here.


Excerpted from 

The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard:
How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal


December 15, 2015 -- Continued from Parts I and II

Visit this link to read “Conclusion.”

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Part II of III: The Way It's Supposed To Be (Continued)


This piece is also posted in a somewhat earlier version, pre-editing, last round, at this link.


Again I state what may now be obvious.

The following is Part 2 of 3 (see Part I here), excerpted from my book in progress titled The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard: How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal. The focus of the following essay is on the Coffee House Conversations. My method of writing books means that what follows may be the basis for a chapter, or it may not. However, if it is, it is likely to be much changed by the time it gets into book form which may be as early as Fall, 2016.  We shall see.

But there is no reason now to hold back what is in the works that can spur your thinking and assist your exploration of this blog site as well as the other two for which I write and my two online radio shows.  I want us to have inspiring discussions that can lead to social and political change. That is why I offer this to you. And at what better time than the present when we are awash in political crises every where you turn

Enjoy, expand and write me, personally, now and again at SuperSleuthDSW@aol.com, or post your comments directly onto my blog sites or radio show web sites.

The Way It’s Supposed To Be: Part II

Excerpted from 
The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard:
How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal



December 15, 2015 -- Continued from Part I

What was the whole Coffee House Conversations project about anyway, if not to build bridges, not impenetrable walls?  But my encounters with An-Nur and Ahmed were definitely not “IT” by any stretch of the imagination. They exemplified debate at its worst extreme; anger and hostility carried to the point of abusiveness; a far cry from the peace building agenda we had in mind. But at least they were saying something of their views and for that I was grateful.

So when another round of the same seemed to arise, I gave the tension between An-Nur and myself my best knowhow, leaning in to hear and understand her anguish as much as I could.  Leaning in had grown to be a pledge in my mind, made to my heart. Or, had it been the other way around; a pledge of my heart with my head full of training, skills and experience to see my way through challenges like this? But try as I might, the effort this time had taken a toll, as it had on the previous two occasions, leaving me, soon again, feeling beaten up, attacked and abused.  

What gave me strength – and – clarity this time, however, was that I had a vision, rooted in my Jewish heritage and my will to stand by what I believed, that we could surmount difficulties such as this, no matter how challenging, if everyone was determined to work things through. With that in mind I would do whatever I could to help lift this present tirade out of the sinking, stinking mud pulling it down and do my best to reach for the high ground

Quickly doing my best to quell that which seemed to be escalating, I set my mind to protecting this cherished space, An-Nur, the others present, the ideals of the Coffee House Conversations project and me, without too much blood shed, experiencing myself almost instantaneously summoning hidden reserves. Time was of the essence here, as a potentially out of control situation loomed in a time and space set aside for peace, hope and unity; a sanctuary for the arduous work of gathering collective dreams and considering the best ways to make them come true.

This wasn’t the first time, however, that the high minded intent of our Coffee House Conversations project had seemed to tarnish. But, as it would turn out, this was the one that in the midst of its corrosion, would come through the alchemical process, refining the lead of it to a higher quality, even gold perhaps.  Other complications before this, as we had adventured through the year, had been subtle. Some had shown signs of a slight refinement proportionate to the difficulties themselves and the challenges of untangling them.  Unfortunately these rewarding opportunities had been the exception.

One hurdle that was meaningful to me – and – that had gotten worked through, had to do with a gentleman who was an aide to our local County Executive. I felt particularly pleased to have him in attendance at numerous of our events, particularly so, as although he came representing the County Executive, he is also a man of distinction in his own right; someone you might expect to someday be County Executive himself or City Mayor.

That particular hitch had to do with his calling me out for openly stating that I didn’t like Mr. Obama as president. Richard, I will name him here for our discussion, chastised me for acting politically incorrect, especially in public in my role as leader.  I, in turn, continued our repartee by suggesting that I had consciously chosen to insert that bit of potential controversy that might invite civil disagreement. If people could be adept at dialogue which Richard apparently could; tangles such as this could become teachable moments; opportunities for collective growth and expansion. This is what I sought.

After a few rounds of word play, eventually Richard and I did come to a common and comfortable ground, I thought, dialoguing on the significance of people needing to learn to speak truth to power as a viable and necessary methodology for developing healthy, sustainable communities; the goal I originally had in mind to demonstrate with my “indelicate” comments. However, both of us were skilled communicators so we apparently had some ease in getting through our tangle.

But there were other incidents; most that I caught as I saw them flying by but did not have the time, at the moment, to hold onto and follow through as I had on the one involving Richard. Conflict resolution, or as New Horizons likes to call it, leaning in to work through everyday interferences in interpersonal human relations, this takes time. It is the rare, very rare, in fact, person who will make the time to take up the skill development necessary to achieve proficiency in even reaching for truth and reconciliation. 

Especially not in our fast-paced, internet driven world where hand held devices readily replace genuine people contact. Herein lie the greatest obstacles and challenges to community bridge building; endless time demands, some of them quite frivolous, and a disinterest in genuine, full-bodied connectedness. Even partners, parents and children seem to often prefer to avoid high-intensity interacting and the working through of snags in these closest of relationships.  

What great and wonderful opportunities, unique to humans, are missed this way!

In a setting such as we provide with our Coffee House Conversations some of the most common ways of avoiding leaning in and moving through interpersonal complications to meaningful growth and resolution are: anger, blaming, judging others, sarcasm, gossip, silence and withdrawal of interest or involvement and “othering” (i.e. seeing others as being so outside one’s particular frame of reference as to make any time spent engaging in dialogue or conflict resolution with the “other” as meaningless and as annoying as the nighttime mosquitos).

Part III: Conclusion, coming soon.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Way It's Supposed To Be: Part I of III

Also posted on New Horizons Small "Zones of Peace"

The following is Part 1 of 3, excerpted from my book in progress titled The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard: How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal. The focus of the following essay is on the Coffee House Conversations. My method of writing books means that what follows may be the basis for a chapter, or it may not. However, if it is, it is likely to be much changed by the time it gets into book form which may be as early as Fall, 2016.  We shall see.

But there is no reason now to hold back what is in the works that can spur your thinking and assist your exploration of this blog site as well as the other two for which I write and my two online radio shows.  I want us to have inspiring discussions that can lead to social and political change. That is why I offer this to you. And at what better time than the present when we are awash in political crises every where you turn

Enjoy, expand and write me, personally, now and again at SuperSleuthDSW@aol.com, or post your comments directly onto my blog sites or radio show web sites.


The Way It’s Supposed To Be: Part I


Excerpted from 
The Middle East Crisis In My Backyard:
How Communities Come Apart and How They Heal
December, 2015

I looked around at the “Monday Morning Meeting” attendees gathered in this cozy club-like room we had claimed these past months, missing my police officer friend, Jason, acutely. On this last get together day of what had been a year-long conversations adventure, my sense of Jason’s presence being necessary startled me along with his absence feeling important. I had grown close to Jason on this journey we had shared and often looked to him as a sounding board as we worked together to expand our project; our minds and our hearts – and – consequently the visions each of us held for the possibilities our joint endeavors might achieve, forging a bond of understanding between us.

But Jason had taken off for some family time; first a long-planned trip to Las Vegas to celebrate his son’s twenty-first birthday, then another week-end marking his wife’s. I probably wouldn’t see him again until after the holidays in January.  I sorely felt his being gone.

Today, overall, the attendance for our semi-regular meetings had dwindled but I made that fact incidental. I was just simply glad to be back here at Dublin Roasters, our neighborhood coffee shop with this special group of people now gathered. Long past were my days of being a loner; devotion to collaboration and team work had taken center stage. As I had grown more and more aware of what was important, the notion that life was with people had taken hold. I had no wish to release it.  It had been a long time coming. 

Once I caught on, however, this retired psychotherapist, Me, turned community development consultant and trainer became dedicated to the ideal of overcoming the polarization running riot throughout our society. It was now close to ten years since this shift had occurred in me. Drawing on my clinical training, experience and skills, especially in doing group therapy, I had then gone on to collaborate with a former ninth grade school teacher to create a model for community dialogue and problem solving that became the Coffee House Conversations series. We were in our eighth year with it.

Now like a recovering drunk who had found the Twelve Steps, I wished everyone could know and embrace the values interwoven into the transformational power of our model and apply them to everyday challenges; values built upon a belief and substantiation that through dialogue, truth and reconciliation practices people can find common ground and together build a better world. 

This set of beliefs was at the very core of my Being. And, our Coffee House Conversations project had given me, personally, a venue from which to shout out its beauty; loud and clear in everything I said and did in presenting it, or so I thought. After all, I came of along line of folks who had fought for their very lives against the oppression of those who would do them in; from the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, all the way down to modern times, including the Holocaust and the still active anti-Semitism throughout the world. 

I had a personal stake in overcoming polarization and our Coffee House Conversations project was giving me a much-needed setting from which to express my passion for peace and unity and teach what I knew on how to systematically attain that state. 

Both Sue deVeer, my collaborator who was born and bred Quaker, and myself had lived by these principles and related practices for most of our lives. We knew them from the inside out. But so far, where others were concerned, it had been like swimming upstream to sell our approach; the idea sounded appealing but the effort required to develop the necessary skills for genuine effectiveness seemed to be too much for most people. This disappointing insight had been one of the most revealing realizations for me from this past year of Coffee House Conversations. Additionally, neither Sue nor myself were much good at fundraising and marketing. And a program such as ours needed both.

But here in our hidey hole meeting place we, who were seemingly of like-mind, had found a back room for gathering and sharing our hopes and dreams for building a greater unity in our community. Here we had met as a group of not more than ten or twelve for months now, to develop what had turned out to be regular events, spotlighting certain sensitive issues in our community through the dialogue programs we called Coffee House Conversations; now our non-profit organization’s signature series. 

The first Coffee House Conversation we did, this past January, had a broad scope, billed as focusing on race relations, police relations and general community relations.  It had been an exciting and inspiring launching, especially on the heels of the previous year’s upset in Ferguson, Missouri, claiming the life of one more Black male youth, downed by a police officer, worsening the nationwide backlash already in motion wherever citizen-police relationships were in question.

Building on this platform, we had put in a rewarding year with our programs; five out of nine of them specially focused on citizen-police relations“Kids and Cops,” which we had presented two times; one on site for the local Housing Authority and three of“Humanizing Citizen-Police Relations,” partnering with our local City Police. All had been well-received with the local media giving us our fair share of free publicity.

Now it was the end of the year, heading into the holiday season and people’s hearts and minds were turned elsewhere. Besides, we had already finished our slate of Coffee House Conversations for the year. The final one had been presented the Saturday before this Monday Morning Meeting; the first Saturday of December. So it was really wrap up time. 

But just as our meeting was ending, An-Nur, a Muslim woman from Bangladesh that I had come to know, admire and even love a little spoke out, adamant and angry! As my father used to say, given the volume and intensity of her voice, she was definitely a bit “hot under the collar” about something. But I didn’t quite understand what; her anger making it hard for me to hear her and register the actual source of her displeasure.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by the disturbance but I was. Actually both An-Nur and her husband, Ahmed, had accosted me at the end of last Saturday’s program; a  certain demonstration that the main lesson I had been attempting to teach all year; dialogue must supplant debate as our common mode of communication, if genuine bridge building and problem solving are our goals, had definitely not taken hold. 

Quite evidently the message intended had found no place for expression  in these exchanges with An-Nur and her husband. The conversations were the complete antithesis of what our project was about, leaving me feeling entrapped and abused with both of them coming at me angrily. I had also had a similar encounter with Ahmed following the Coffee House Conversations event in November.  What had been most unsettling to me then is that I had truly tried to listen carefully to him and his concerns at the time but could not find my way through his heavy Bengali accent.

The second time a similar encounter occurred, this one at the December event and including An-Nur, there had been two people talking hard and fast to me in a way that felt as if I were being hammered on. I had made my escape as quick as I could. Now here we were again. This time at the Monday Morning Meeting I had come to consider almost as sacred territory. Although with An-Nur only, especially away from her husband, I sincerely wanted us to work this thing out.

What was the whole Coffee House Conversations project about anyway, if not to build bridges, not impenetrable walls?  But these encounters were definitely not “IT” by any stretch of the imagination. They exemplified debate at its worst extreme; anger and hostility carried to the point of abusiveness; a far cry from the peace building agenda we had in mind. But at least they were saying something of their views and for that I was grateful.

Part II: Coming Soon!