Saturday, October 27, 2012

Seeing the world through other cultures

In my conversational English class the other day, we somehow got into a discussion of war and prejudice and immigration and US foreign policy.  These are the sort of topics you have to be really careful with, but it was a brilliant class conversation.  That day, I had students from Iraq, Mexico, China, Thailand, France, Slovakia, and Guyana.  Quite a United Nations.  In the end, we agreed mainly on the goodness of ordinary people on the small scale, and the horror of national greed on the large scale. 

We also decided that everyone who wants a real education should travel out of their own country for a spell, and not just to a beach in Mexico.  In my own case, travel has rather forcibly pried open my mind and let in a lot of things that wouldn't be there otherwise.  And though it has—regretably—actually enforced a stereotype or too, it's killed far more. 

When I was little, I thought America held a monopoly on democracy and freedom and the good life, and that everyone must want to be us.  Then I traveled.

I met real people.  Unlearned many things.  Grew to love—or at least accept—the differences and similarities that bind us all together in often complicated knots.  And only threw a few tantrums when things didn't work they way I thought they should.

As Mark Twain said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."

Travel on, and maybe one day we can truly be citizens of the world.  

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