Monday, November 26, 2007

That being said . . .

(See my post below on illegal immigration.)

A frequent name being tossed around at folks like me is xenophobic (fear of strangers). Hey, I don't mind name-calling; if the shoe fits, and all that. But here, the shoe doesn't fit.

My horizons have been broadened by watching shows like The Amazing Race in which Americans are plopped into other countries and their cultures. Some of the Racers act like Uglo-Americans, wondering why the locals have the gall to speak their own language and not English! Or, as one participant once said when in an African country, "Why can't these people stop breeding?" Also, in and out of various seasons, the Racers have wound up in India, where the women Racers are almost always shocked at how they're treated: as second-class citizens, if that.

Now, I haven't ventured out of the United States much in my life, and I don't say that as a good thing. Our trip to Canada was my first prolonged time in another country since I was seven years old, as our family finished a three-year stint in England. But I do know this: I would never demand that, for example, everyone in a non-English-speaking country speak English to satisfy me (or, if I did, I'd know I was wrong). That's one of the things that irks me about illegal immigrants to this country; they expect us to provide them their own culture, instead of assimilating into ours.

I would hope that when in other countries, I would be able step back and appreciate what's unique about their culture, people, and way of life. It seems to me that Puffy, for one, has done that.

Another thing that Racers on TAR can have a hard time with is the contrast between the poverty they see in various countries . . . and the utter joy the children have even in the midst of it. Last week's episode was a good example of this, as a group of Burkina Faso children led Vyxsin, a Goth, through a crowded market. She was overwhelmed. Perhaps the children, unlike us, don't couple happiness with economic status. And no, I'm not arguing that it's good for people to be poor! It's just that this idea of money = happiness is a very Western idea not necessarily shared by the rest of the world. (We support Cross International, BTW.) And how many unhappy well-off people do you know?

I hope that I can be so helpful with strangers in my area . . . even if they may be here illegally.


Puffy said...

Hey, thanks for the shout-out. Traveling is the best way to meet other people and see how they live in their own unique environment. Watch for my next travelogue in March-April!