A conversation overheard on our flight from Atlanta to Little Rock last evening:
Mr. A: I been flying all day, from Liberia to Paris, D.C., and now Arkansas.
Mr. B.: I'll bet you were glad to get out of Paris. Those people in France are mean. What were you doing in Libya? That's in Africa, right?
Mr. A: Libya's in north Africa. I was in Liberia. My father lives in Liberia. It's in west Africa.
Mr. B: I taught high school in Arkansas for 44 years. Math teacher.
Mr. A: Why all these men want to work on airplanes? That used to be women's work. Sheeit!
Mr. B: (as the flight begins to land) What's your first name?
Mr. A: Thomas.
Mr. B: Now was that your Libyan name, or is it your American name?
Mr. A: Most people in Liberia are descendants of American slaves. We've had American names for a long time.
Mr. B: You know so much history, you should be a history teacher. We wanted to know your name so we can pray for you. We all need prayer.
And so it goes, la comédie humaine, A.D. 2012, as American voters prepare to cast votes in an election whose outcome could well determine the future of the human community and the planet itself.