29/1-08
 
Yesterday's Comments…
 
Yesterday I posted a reactionary piece about some comments I received following a post about American foreign policy, among other things. The piece was a spontaneous reaction to the comments I received, and I stand by my reaction. However, I've had some time to mull over a few things, and would like to expand on some of the ideas from that retort.
 
Regarding the President's Name…
 
Wouldn't it be funny if our next President is named Barack? What kind of person thinks someone with a name like Barack could ever represent America?
The name thing was a joke. Anyone who thinks I'd actually base my vote on someone's name is missing the point.
 
"People are still dying to come here… What we have, that I don't know anyone else has, is opportunity for everyone. You can go from nothing to something in a realitvely short time without having "class" interfere."
 
I concede the point about class. Although our society is very top-heavy with regards to who controls the wealth, it's always been like that, and that doesn't preclude someone from rising to that level from relative anonymity.
 
However, I believe that this argument is becoming less and less true. Our country was founded on diversity, and the varied viewpoints and variety of skills and knowledge of the people helped facilitate our rise to a world power. But that was a long time ago. What is one of the biggest issues in this election? Immigration. Or, rather, the elimination of it. I said earlier that history has a funny tendency to repeat itself. Well, this is a case of society ignoring an important facet of history that made our country great. Instead of focusing on positive solutions and finding ways to utilize new immigrant skills, we're simply trying to deny them the right to come here in the first place.
 
Not only is it becoming increasingly difficult to immigrate into our country, it's becoming increasingly difficult to even visit our country. Foreigners are now forced to have all 10 fingers printed electronically, and are subject to a series of questions prior to being granted entry simply as a tourist. What kind of message is this sending to the world? I understand the necessity for national security. But when a banner in the international terminal of the LA airport reads 'Homeland Security Welcomes You to the United States of America,' I think it's going a little too far.
 
I came to Prague to learn how to teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). This means the teaching of English to people who reside in a foreign country, with a foreign culture and a foreign first language, who simply want to speak English in order to 'get in the loop' with the rest of the English-speaking world. TESL, on the other hand, is the Teaching of English as a Second Language. This is for students who reside in an English-speaking country, and want to learn not only the language, but also the culture, to assimilate into society. Only a few years ago, the world officially crossed an astounding threshold as a global society – there are now more non-native English-speakers in the world than native speakers. This means that more people on earth today can speak English as their second language, than people who can speak English as their first language (like us).
 
'Welcome to America – Now Speak Our Language.' Well, it's no longer our language. In fact, it's their language. However, I don't disagree with that statement entirely. But instead of turning it into a negative, why not make it a positive? Think about this…let's create an army of English teachers. It only takes a month. Let's open our doors to the rest of the world, allow free immigration like we did when our country was founded, teach them our language and our culture  (which, by the way, they had to learn on their own in the old days…where do you think we got 'PA Dutch" from?), and see what they can offer us.
 
On a similar note, since I began traveling in foreign countries with foreign languages, I don't recall ever being denied service or being treated unfairly because I didn't speak the language. I don't know more than 3 words of Czech, and nobody here speaks English. Do you think I'm treated differently? I may be looked at funny sometimes, and laughed at behind my back…but when I go to a pub or restaurant, the staff tries to be helpful, despite the language barrier. I've never once been refused service for not speaking the language. It's called hospitality.
 
We are at a time in history when English is the lingua franca, and we need to take advantage of this. We don't even have to learn another language! We can remain self-centered in that regard. We have more power now than ever as English-speakers, when we can actually communicate with more non-native speakers around the globe than native English speakers. Let's take advantage of this!
 
"As "they" say, "If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem"."
 
First of all, who are 'they'? This has always puzzled me, and why are 'they' always right? This is a good argument to use when one doesn't have anything better to say, and can't give any good examples to back up their point. Instead of using a real retort, and offering up solutions of their own, users of this cliché instead place the blame on the speaker, and avoid the issue. Which in a way, makes the speaker part of the problem as well.
 
The intent of my original post was not to save the world. It wasn't even to offer any solutions to anything. I was merely making observations, and, while we're using clichés, providing 'food for thought.' I'm glad that it provoked some replies. But if you're going to argue, please back it up, and don't simply rattle off overused idioms. At least I can recognize that there is a problem in the first place. I've always been taught that the recognition of a problem is the first step to its solution.
 
 
"…it is incredibly untrue that this generation is complacent and not passionate about change. If you were paying any attention before the Iraq war started, there were marches in every major city - with over one million people marching in New York alone."
 
I still adhere to the notion that my generation, in its current state, is not capable of creating change within our society. This idea stemmed from the CNN special I saw about MLK Jr. while in Austria. (And as the bumper sticker says, 'There are no kangaroos in Austria'!). I was struck by the fervor that MLK Jr. spoke with, and the enormous crowds he drew. The passion emanating from his followers was unstoppable. They willed change to occur. This was not that long ago, and it's scary to think that our society, as great as it is, still segregated blacks less than 50 years ago.
 
(A funny side note…When MLK Jr. was at the peak of his power as an orator, he visited Sweden, just before Christmas. December 13 is 'Lucia' in Sweden, and Mr. King happened to be visiting on this date. 'Lucia' is a holiday that remembers the burning of witches at the stake in the old days, much like in Salem, Mass. The tradition is for young women to sing 'Lucia' songs under candlelight, early in the morning, waking up in fact, the residents of a town. MLK Jr. got to experience this tradition. He was awoken by a group of people dressed in white gowns, with white headwear on, holding candles and encircling his bed…you can imagine what he thought. The misunderstanding was quickly defused, however, and now in Uppsala, we have a street named after him.)
 
MLK Jr. had the benefit of an obvious cause to fight for, that was personified by the countless black people who had to deal with it day in and day out. Their cause for racial freedom only needed a catalyst, and MLK Jr. provided that, and was able to organize the contempt that everyone felt, and mobilize it in a way to create real change.
 
My point was that currently our generation is not faced with such personal anguish, and that no one cares enough to begin the process of creating change. My parents had Vietnam, and saw their friends and family carted off against their will to an unpopular war. This potentially affected every person in society. The lucky ones went to college. The ones who got their number called went to war. We don't have this problem today. We (fortunately) have enough voluntary military to avoid a draft. Would our generation tolerate it if it came to that though? I say no…but like I said before, the government knows this. They won't risk the social upheaval that a draft would cause, so they find other ways of recruiting men for the military, and instead are actually praised for avoiding a draft in the first place.
 
My generation is not segregated. We enjoy more freedoms than any other in our history. We, the middle class, live extraordinarily comfortable lives, and in the age of technology and globalization, know more about the world from our desktops than any generation before ours. And in a matter of 12 hours, we can be almost anywhere in the world. Our lives are simply too comfortable, and we refuse to risk that comfort in the name of societal change. The country's (and the worlds, for that matter) problems are too abstract, too impersonal for any real change to occur from the bottom-up. Marches on Washington and NYC are great…they show that we care, but what have they accomplished? That's the difference.
 
"Really, if the US falls, who wins? We are all so interconnected at this point, it seems there would be no real winner."
 
I concede this point, to an extent. In the age of globalization and exponentially increasing technology, there can be no complete failure of a society, and no complete world-dominating empire. But I think this phenomenon began far earlier than now.
 
When the US was formed, England was the most powerful empire in the world. When the US fought for their freedom, we took a large chunk out of the English empire, and began creating an empire of our own. Gradually, as the US matured, England simultaneously became weaker as a global power. But they did not fail. The playing field was leveled, but they remained a worthy opponent in the game of global domination (some call this game Risk!).
 
Eventually, and it did not take long, the English and the US recognized each others power, and became allies. Instead of remaining enemies, they joined forces and currently remain two of the world's great empires.
 
The balance of power will never be in favor of one global empire as it once was in the time of the Romans and Greeks. Their worlds were comparatively miniscule, and it can be argued that the far-east nations in fact had greater control over the entire world than even the Greeks or Romans. Now that the world has shrunk, there can never be one dominant country or society, and this fact must be recognized to achieve any kind of progress.
 
My problem with the US society is that we refuse to acknowledge the rest of the world and it's diversity, which in the past has shaped our country and our society, and made it what it is today. We've somehow shifted to a self-centered culture basing our foreign (and domestic) policies on fear and negativity, denouncing foreigners as strange and scary.
 
Like I said, I'll concede that in a modern, global society there are no clear 'winners' and 'losers,' but the US is going to lose ground on the global playing field if we do not recognize the need to become more egalitarian and open-minded, and concede that there are equally important, different cultures playing an enormous role in the rest of the world.
 
Conclusions.
 
Can you tell I enjoy this sort of thing? Keep the comments coming, because I believe that open conversation is the first step to compromise and the creation of change.
 
The reason America has become the leader of the free world is because we have always been able to change and adapt, based on what's been happening in the world. I have no doubt that our country will continue to adapt to the changing nature of our global society; I'm just curious to see how that is going to happen.
 
Our country was founded on moral principles and is in fact 'good' as one commenter put it. We will not fail like the communists did, because we have the freedom and the flexibility to change with the times. And the first step to creating change is recognizing the need for it. That's what I meant by saying that America is at a turning point in its history. Everyone needs to wake up to the reality that what our country has been doing, globally and domestically, has been short-sighted. This doesn't mean America will fail. I hope this means that our society will recognize our faults, and continue to mature and be the leader of the free world, setting the example for other nations and cultures to follow.
 
I think if we think of it that way, of being an elder sibling to the rest of the world, we'd be better off. Let's try to set the example we'd like the rest of the world to follow, and we can rule the world! If we continue to create good ideas, welcome diversity and acknowledge and respect other cultures, the rest of the world may just follow suit. We're currently setting the opposite example, shutting ourselves in, destroying our opposition instead of listening to it, and forging animosity from the rest of the world. What, exactly, is this going to prove? Think about what I've said, and by all means, craft a reply and let me hear your point of view. Knowledge is power.

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