Friday, July 29, 2005
London, July 7, 2005
Walking down the airport escalator at Heathrow, the woman next to me mentions a power failure or bomb on the tube. At 10 a.m. I disregard the remark, still awash in lavender fields, provencal herbs, and the glow from long evening meals at my cousin's three-day wedding in Provence. I leave a message for my schoolboy chum to meet us at London Bridge at noon. Proceeding to the Thames link train, something is clearly amiss. Several bombings in London, and no trains or public transportation is available to the city. Ann and others move away from an unaccompanied bag. Welcome back to the real world.
Quickly we hire a car and retreat to the warm surroundings of my godson and family in the Cotswolds. Every sign on the M-4 tells us that London is closed and to turn on the radio for more. Warily, I look at the skyline and wonder if someday we will see a cloud from a dirty bomb. Little is known about the incidents on the radio.
My ominous thoughts disappear as students prepare for our weeklong London seminar and British declare emphatically that we must carry on. The messages in the press, e-mails and conversation are loud and clear. We expected it, we are prepared and we must move forward. I find the spirit of confidence, resolve and serious reflection calming. Yes, this is our world and we must embrace it.
And so, 19 Brandeis students fly from Boston on Saturday, July 9 to our World Financial Seminar on Oil, Poverty and International Institutions. What better place to debate such issues. We find that London is an incredibly vibrant city with people from all corners of the world. Challenging to police, but the energy of the streets, the tubes and classroom is palpable. So different from 35 years ago when I was a student in a largely male-oriented society stratified along class lines.
The London of today is alive, changing and striving for more. In our seminar, journalists, business leaders, academics and politicians call us to the issues that strain the world and give rise to violence — corruption, colonial divisions of countries in the Middle East and Africa, oil, development, disease, and inequality. The facts and prognosis give us pause. There is not a lot of optimism.
I sit in the room, walk the street, talk in a pub and listen to our discussions in a Brazilian or Indian restaurant. There is a lot of concern and passion. Yet this energy is what London and global economy is about. African students tell me this is the best learning experience they have had; others show their excitement and engagement. And the fear that comes with the bombs and threats gives way to the animation of London, the focus of my students, and the compassion of the police constable at the remembrance in Trafalgar Square.
I return from my week in London invigorated by our messy world. The tragic deaths are confirmation of the challenges ahead. The bombs in London connected me to the larger world and demonstrated the character and courage of everyday people. Yes, we are in a complicated world with many differences and much in common. Londoners, like many others, understand the importance of carrying on and caring. I was fortunate to be there.
© 2005 The Carlisle Mosquito