Friday, May 9, 2003
It's not over yet
The Annual Town Meeting on Monday night in Corey Auditorium started on time, with a quorum present by 7 p.m. "It was a good turnout," said Town Clerk Sarah Andreassen, who confirmed that the 433 attendees was a strong showing but not a record.
The meeting proceeded smoothly without rancor and with the utmost of civility, considering that several of the warrant articles generated widely divergent opinions. It seemed to this observer that the people who were in attendance knew what they were there for; presentations, in most cases, were clearly articulated; and speakers from the floor were given adequate time to state their opinions.
In discussions on Tuesday with friends and colleagues there were those who thought Town Meeting was boring, others found it humorless. But one thing all could agree on: it ended by 10:30, and we did not have to return for a second night.
Several questions come to mind. Why was the 2003 Art Celebration Week at the Carlisle School scheduled to begin on Town Meeting night, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.? Parents have a hard enough time feeding their families and getting things settled at home before they head off to Town Meeting at 7 o'clock.
Having baby-sitting for infants downstairs in the Corey gym was a great idea, but why didn't people learn about it ahead of time, instead of on Monday afternoon?
And lastly, why can't the RecComs in both Concord and Carlisle make an effort to not schedule sporting events on Town Meeting afternoons? For parents who have to pick up a child in Concord from a lacrosse game or other athletic events, getting to Town Meeting is an extremely difficult task.
With Town Meeting over, it's important to look ahead to Tuesday at the polls where a majority of voters are needed to pass the override funding for the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School and bonding for the Carlisle footpath plan in the center of town, both of which received a more than 2/3 vote to pass on Monday night.
No, it's not over. Supporters of the CCHS override and the footpath plan must vote Yes in the election at Town Hall on Tuesday, May 13, 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
See you there!
From Carlisle to the Middle East
Twenty years ago this June, I moved away from home in Carlisle and visited the Middle East for the first time. I was part of a student exchange program, living with a family in Turkey for the summer just prior to going off to college.
This experience in Turkey sparked my interest in the region. So, in college and graduate school I pursued the study of the Middle East, and also visited the region on several more occasions. I lived for a total of two and a half years in Cairo, as a student and then as a journalist. From Egypt I made side-trips to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen, and Azerbaijan. My first articles for the Carlisle Mosquito were travel stories from the Middle East as a student.
The people of the Middle East are very social, hospitable, and warm. I was constantly invited into people's home and served tea, sometimes Turkish coffee, or soft drinks and local pastries. Quite frequently I was invited for delicious home-cooked meals, and sometimes was even invited to a birthday party or a wedding of people I hardly knew. Indeed it was an advantage to be a woman visitor, for an unfamiliar male would not likely be invited into the privacy of a home with women.
The religious difference was rarely an issue, as many Arab countries have significant Christian minorities. In the Middle East, one's religion is based on birth, like ethnicity, not through spiritual choice. Proselytizing or conversion in any direction is just not done. So, while some Muslims wanted to make sure I had a favorable opinion of their religion, they did not try to convert me.
As for being an American, that sometimes elicited arguments from people I met that U.S. foreign policy is too biased towards Israel and that Palestinian plight is not understood. But the arguments were never angry nor directed at me personally. In fact, it seemed to me that the Arabs tried to turn me into an ally of their cause, hoping that I would then go back and try to change American public opinion and eventually the U.S. government's foreign policy. Alas, U.S. foreign policy is not determined in the same fully democratic manner as a Carlisle Town Meeting.
I am concerned that American college students with an interest in the Middle East, as I had, can no longer study there and travel around as easily as I did, with Arab public opinion more anti-American than ever. I read with dismay that graduate and post-graduate research grants are being severely restricted for American Middle East scholars. With fewer Americans willing or able to travel there, we will be all the less knowledgeable of the region. That is something we cannot let happen.
I left the Middle East for the final time in May 1992, after a full year in Egypt, upon the ultimatum of my future husband that I'd better come back soon if I wanted our relationship to continue. But someday I hope to take my family to visit a peaceful Middle East, and the possible resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is a reason for optimism.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito