Sunday, February 27, 2011

Arabian Nights

Last night I volunteered at a charity event in Portland's glitzy Pearl District neighborhood. It was an annual fundraiser and the organizers aimed to please. The tables were set, the caterers were matching, and the theme was... in poor taste. For the record, the charity most likely picked the theme for the evening upwards of a year ago. Unfortunately however, "Arabian Nights" seemed to be both disconnected and insensitive. This was not a commonly shared opinion, honestly I seemed to be the only one to notice. After I got over the irony of flying home from Egypt only to find myself at an event playing Amr Diab's greatest hits, the tragedy of it all began to sink in. Here during this Arabian night, guests would be invited to shower themselves in festive jewelry, take a risk and get a henna tattoo, and try their luck at wine ring toss (my event) before enjoying their Lebanese meal and dinner entertainment. A good time was surely to be had by all. How many of Portland's glitterati crowd asked themselves if the same was true for the real Arabian night? Will the Arab world sleep soundly? Or will they wake up to more violence, uncertainty, and injustice?
The situation varies across the region. Mass protests continue in Yemen and Bahrain. On a smaller scale, protesters also take to the street in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. In Egypt, though protests continue, the people have begun to dig in to start the real work of implementing lasting change. Egypt was on my mind last night. A friend of mine wrote about how even though the revolution accomplished an admirable feat of ousting dictator Mubarak, the real change so desperately desired by Egypt was in no way guaranteed and was perhaps even in jeopardy of slipping away. If Egypt was on my mind, Libya was on my heart. While the champagne flowed and bids were placed as casually as greetings were offered, I thought about Libya's Arabian night. Some parts of the country rejoiced after taking control from the government, but the violence and oppression continues. Qaddafi continues to kill his own people. The Libyan people are literally dying for their rights, and here we are discussing the pros and cons of the 2009 Pinot Noir.

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