Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This Is The Way I See It

This quote was on the cup of my Peppermint Mocha (grande) at Starbucks the other day:

People need to see that, far from being an obstacle, the world's diversity of languages, religions and traditions is a great treasure, affording us precious opportunities to recognize ourselves in others.
Youssou N'Dour, musician
While I applaud efforts like this, or Poetry in Motion on the subway (short poems or excerpts on posters), in place of advertising, I would prefer they not consist of meaningless platitudes. Part of what bothers me is the platitude itself; part of it is people's reception of said platitude: pleased mumblings of "hear hear, we should think this way," followed by finishing your $5 coffee, getting into your four-door sedan and driving to the grocery store where you buy enough food to feed a village, all the while feeling self-satisfaction at your expanded worldview.

So here: I get N'Dour's point. Let's not treat our differences as antagonisms, less-thans. Valid and worthy. But they're still differences. That cannot be changed, and we need to acknowledge that. Call the room. Acknowledging them as anything else is like taming a lion by pretending it's a jackrabbit. Sure, that'll give you the courage to approach it, but it won't make the lion tear your face off any less.

What of herself could a burkha-clad Afghani woman see in an American blonde tanning poolside, wearing a two-piece? In what way does not sharing a language make it any easier for me to understand a Russian's take on capitalism? N'Dour's probably the kind of person that says "Who wants a perfect world? That's boring." No, it's perfect. Or "If we were all the same, we'd never grow." No, we'd all grow the same because we'd quit blowing each other up trying to prove who's right.

There is little to nothing of me in a fundamentalist Mormon or a jackbooted fascist (inevitable comparison by juxtaposition incorrect, unintentional and unfortunate), and I'm fine with that.

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