Keeping the conversation alive.

September 27, 2009

The Nazis in the square at Marienplatz weren’t making any sense. Perhaps it was their message (duh), or their circa 1951 audio equipment, or that people in Germany were protesting the protest.

Whatever the case, I couldn’t understand a word they were shouting into their loudspeakers as I walked – briskly – through the square.

I lingered long enough to be heartened by the whistles, raised middle fingers and shouts of the vast number of observers all around the protesters’ stage. But then I went off to a local bar – it was Oktoberfest in Germany after all.

At the bar, I ordered drinks and sat at a table with GF. We talked about how something as simple as yelling hateful slogans and ideals could affect someone. She had been moved almost to the point of throwing up – the protesters’ messages…or what she assumed they were shouting…was so distasteful.

I took a more clinical view. While the propaganda sharing wasn’t a true discussion, it was still an important part of our lives. The sharing of different views – PEACEFULLY – is something I’d advocate for, regardless of the message. In MOST cases.

I was still mulling over the power of conversation when we saw two guys come into the bar. We had room at our table and waved them over.

They were Eduardo and Corrado – stone merchants from Verona and Munich, respectively. And they spoke about three words of English between them.

Luckily, GF and I knew three words of German and Italian so we were off to a roaring start.

Waving hands and scrawled drawings forged a connection between us that’s not possible when people don’t try to listen or communicate.

We learned that these guys had been to ten consecutive Oktoberfests together. That they worked with marble and fine stone.

We were able to share details of our journey with them and over the course of four beers we didn’t have a lull in our conversation.

I wondered if we would have been able to share laughter or even a connection with the Nazi protesters in the square if they had wandered into the bar.

Was there any common ground at all? Aren’t they at least human?

In my other blog I rant about PETA and other extremist groups that practically force their message upon others. The skinheads in the square definitely qualify. But they make me wonder about where the line stops.

I hate smoking. I hate bad drivers. I hate women who can’t drive SUVs and persist in dropping their kids off at the bus stop every morning even though it’s 1000 feet from their house.

But my hate pales to the point I don’t feel qualified to even use that word anymore. Do extremists even know what a conversation is? And do they ever leave their views behind to really connect with friends, colleagues, family, strangers in a bar.

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Munich about to go over to Dachau for what I assume is going to be a stirring and moving morning. It’s a reminder that throughout time there have been people who didn’t leave room for conversations and just acted.

More than ever, I’m anxious to hear what you – and everyone – has to say.

Keep reading…and conversing.