On Tuesday, November 27, a one-day Middle East Peace Conference will be held in Annapolis at the US Naval Academy. Some reports indicate representatives from up to 50 nations may be in attendance. The give and take and the nuances of international diplomacy make the “minefields” in the local congregation seem like playground scuffles of 3 year olds. That political maneuvering always interests me. How do you find solutions to complex problems such that those with very different perspectives might live together in peace?
From a local level, this is pretty interesting to me. I live less than a dozen miles from the site of this conference and am intrigued by the peace conference itself, the impact on the community, and the preparations that are taking place. The security necessary for the leaders in attendance, including President Bush, will be tremendous.
Some groups have applied for permits for rallies. Shalom International has applied for a permit to hold a “Jerusalem Isn’t for Sale – Defend Jerusalem” rally on Monday and Tuesday and America for a Safe Israel plans to have a “First Amendment” rally on Monday afternoon. A local temple, Beth Shalom, has organized an interfaith peace rally on Sunday afternoon at the World War II Memorial which overlooks the Naval Academy from across the Severn River. On Monday, this temple and the Israel Project and Baltimore Jewish Council will co-sponsor a rally closer to the Naval Academy.
The local response has been quite interesting. The city (Annapolis) officials minimize the impact of the Peace Conference on the community. They point to the more than 300 year history of Annapolis, it’s participation on the world stage, and it’s ability to manage and handle large crowds for the many large events occurring within the city as factors for this to not have significant impact on the city or its residents. That’s too bad. When a peace conference comes to town, shouldn’t it’s impact be felt?
At the same time, articles in newspapers remind the residents (and beyond if the stories get picked up on the wire) that theirs is a “quintessential Chesapeake Bay city”. The adjectives begin to compete with one another in sentence after sentence. The writers pull out all the stops. Consider these:
Unlike most military facilities, the academy is usually open to the public. Blue uniformed midshipmen are a common site on downtown sidewalks. City residents have rallied around the surging Navy football team, which recently beat Notre Dame for the first time in 44 years and is readying for the annual Army-Navy game Dec. 1 in Baltimore.
(In other words, just in case you forgot … Navy beat Notre Dame in football this year. Although that is an exciting thing for Navy, I wonder how long that will be the claim to fame?)
Winding and narrow streets flanked by clapboard and brick houses trickle down from the white-spired, 18th century State House that commands a hilltop at the city’s center. The City Dock, choked with yachts and pleasure boats during warmer months, anchors the bottom. Around it are art galleries, trinket shops and restaurants serving the region’s signature dish, steamed blue crabs.
No mention here that much of the city dock is under construction this year as the bulkhead is being replaced. Last time I was downtown a few weeks ago, the city dock had a huge barge dominating the scene. No mention that the art galleries, trinket shops and restaurants are mired in constant controversy because of being in an “historic district”, often encumbered by high rents and business costs. A walk down main street is often interesting if nothing else to see what businesses have been able to remain, and which ones have closed. Residents and shop owners co-exist in an uneasy peace which often looks more challenging to solve than the Middle East. No mention that even small street closings have a wider impact because of the traffic congestion in the city. Of course, I wouldn’t expect those things to be mentioned.
I wonder about the wisdom of lining the streets with US flags as an international Peace Conference rolls into town. This isn’t about us.
That’s enough for now.