The Beauty of Difference

While I was out in LA a few weeks ago attending a Writers Studio novel writing class at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, I met a woman, also attending the class, who is Jewish and originally from Iran. She has lived in LA for much of her life, after deciding to stay in the US during a visit around the time of the Iranian Revolution back in 1979. I will not go into details about the novel that she is writing because that is her story to tell, but what I will say is that she is writing about something that absolutely needs to be told to this world.  We are very lucky to get these opportunities to engage with people whose lives are so very different from our own-and that is beautiful. Her story is beautiful.

This new friend of mine was visiting DC to attend the AIPAC Conference with some family. AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, for those of you not wonky enough to know. Though she was busy with events surrounding the conference, I was happy to find out that my friend had some time in her schedule to meet me for early drinks after work one day. I have to say, from West coast to East coast, it is always nice to maintain a connection made in such an intimate setting as a writing workshop.

We chatted and caught up, talked about all the non-writing we are doing on our novels (I promise to write more tonight!), and I was able to meet her beautiful and talented artist daughter. I told them about how much I love DC, and we talked about how people who live in Southern California are the most spoiled human beings in the whole world when it comes to weather. Our conversation eventually turned to the conference, the reason she was in town, naturally, because I was curious. I had studied Israeli politics in college, but it has been years since I have actively paid attention to everything going on in that country-besides our media garbage on the topic.

She told me about the high-profile speakers, and all the unique groups that joined the conference, including a group from Africa, and other Persians such as herself. We talked about Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whom I had interned for almost five years ago, and her support of Israel. My friend mentioned a Hispanic politician from California who was in attendance, and who spoke beautiful Hebrew in front of the audience. All of these different groups, people, politicians, and cultures coming together to support the mission of AIPAC, proving that the importance of a strong US-Israeli relationship is not just meaningful to one particular culture or country. That is beautiful.

I wanted to spend more time talking to her about what it was like to be Jewish in Iran during the time before the Revolution; hopefully, I will get a chance to have that conversation sometime soon. I also wanted to ask her more questions about AIPAC and the impact of the conference on those who support the mission. But as the bar began filling up with the after work office building spillage from the area, I realized that all of my serious questions would require a more lengthy discussion at a different location. What we did get to talk about briefly is the problem of ignorance among groups when it comes to forming opinions about other religious or cultural groups. Her daughter mentioned the protesters camped outside of the conference, waiting to berate those in attendance; many of those angry people simply ignorant in their education of the issues at hand. Without any feelings of frustration or anger, my friend sincerely made the comment that it is beautiful that those protesters have a right to be here in this country. In this country, we can express different views in different ways, and as long as there is no violence or destruction of property, these different types of displays are…beautiful.

Isn’t the beauty of difference something that we should focus on more often? As citizens of the world, we spend far too much energy trying to prove that we are “right,” or force another group into believing what we do instead of appreciating the beauty of the whole situation. I’m not trying to get all “world-peace preachy” on you here, but there is something to be said about the convergence of so many different people and cultures in this AIPAC meeting-both inside and outside. While not everyone has the same view on everything, the fact that Africans, Persians, Israelis, Jews, Christians, Americans, etc…have come together to support a mission in our country is praise-worthy.

I walked away from my happy hour with my friend feeling better than I had in a long while. Finding something truly beautiful in this world will make you feel that way.

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