The Setting: A dinner party with a variety of people from the area where we reside.
I got a plate of food and I proceeded to sit at a table set for 9. I sit down at the same time as two Omani gentlemen. We exchanged greetings. Then, a German gentleman joins us, then a Swedish couple, an Omani couple, and then my wife joined us to complete the table. For those you not keeping score, the breakdown would be: 4 Omanis, 2 Americans, 2 Swedes, and 1 German. This has the makings of a joke, right?
The two Omani men and the German man engaged in a lively, animated, yet pleasantly spirited discussion regarding the current events that are going down in the Middle East. The other parties at the table were all engaged in other conversations; but slowly, gradually, each party began to get pulled, like paper clips to a magnet into the conversation that the 3 men were having. And, soon enough, we all entered the conversation.
The conversation included the following:
- The events that are currently taking place in Egypt, Libya, Oman, and Syria.
- The ineptitude of some of the leaders and cabinets in the Middle East.
- A historical perspective of what took place in the region during the beginning of the Iraq War back in 2003; such as some of the protests that took place in Oman during that time.
- Historically, why certain countries selectively choose to invade countries based on the resources the invaded countries possess (i.e. oil).
- Currently, countries where regime change would not be a bad idea (i.e. North Korea, Zimbabwe, and the Ivory Coast [Cote d’Ivoire]. The Ivory Coast is working on it with help from friends to oust the former President who was voted out of office, but refuses to leave).
- How France is trying to reclaim its identity on a global stage.
- What the future holds for the Middle East?
At the conclusion of the conversation, as if a sparring match had just concluded; handshakes were given, business cards exchanged, and pleasantries offered. All the parties that participated in the conversation either went separate ways or resumed previous conversations.
As I later thought about the evening, I couldn’t help but think there is something special about diverse gatherings of people where conversations regarding potentially volatile issues/events can take place civilly and intelligently so that greater learning and deeper understanding can come from such interactions. The dinner conversation that I was fortunate to be a part of made my day!