The Music of Hopelessness

If foreign policy had a soundtrack, it would be the opposite of easy listening. Really, could anyone listen to a symphony of war and peace all the way through? In the first movement — devoted to death and destruction and played presto and fortissimo — the electric guitarists step to the front of the orchestra to strum power chords, scream hate-filled lyrics, and deliver cacophony instead of...
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Iraq’s Artifacts of Exile

In the initial aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, looters swept through the National Museum in Baghdad and carted off 15,000 items of incalculable value. Some of these items were destroyed in the attempt to spirit them away. Some disappeared into the vortex of the underground art market. Only half of the items were eventually recovered. In February 2015, after a dozen years in limbo,...
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The Art of Dissidence and Diplomacy

The position of the body is the same. The figure is prone on the beach, near the water’s edge. The head is face down in the sand, and the face is just visible. One arm is close to the body, palm upward. The knees are bent, the feet together. This is not Alan Kurdi (initially misreported as Aylan), the three-year-old Syrian child whose body washed up on shore in Turkey. It is the Chinese artist...
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Wrestling with Wrestling Jerusalem

Solo shows are about journeys. The performer tells the story of how he or she navigated through an experience of life-altering importance. At the beginning of Wrestling Jerusalem, the new solo show that kicks off Mosaic Theater Company’s latest Voices from a Changing Middle East Festival in Washington, DC, playwright and performer Aaron Davidman makes it clear that his journey of personal...
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The Lacquer Box

My wife and I lived in Tokyo for three years. At the end of our time there, we threw a going away party for ourselves. “No gifts,” we told all our friends. Instead, they could bring something for the potluck meal. Oh, and they had to take something away with them. We were giving away everything we didn’t want to bring back to the States: some pots and pans, a table, a bag of...
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Before/After

The fall of the Berlin Wall was one of the most dramatic events of the 20th century. It happened suddenly on the evening of November 9, 1989 when thousands of East Germans decided to take history into their own hands and pour over the border into the West. Although the Soviet Union wouldn’t disintegrate for another two years, the fall of the Wall effectively spelled the end of the Cold...
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