“The world is becoming curiouser and curiouser,” cried Alice and Bob. I really don’t want this corner of the internet to devolve into a political commentary but the world seems to be getting stranger, more dangerous and just plain crazier by the day. With an apology to my U.S. family and friends, I’ve never been a big fan of the American political system ever since a late night meeting in 1981 in Berlin when I came face to face with a group of “good old boys” who literally occupied a smoke filled back room and decided how the world would unfold the next day. Rick Pinchin, you will recall that night I’m sure. Hopes, dreams, money and hard work dashed on the rocks of political duplicity. The experience created a deep seated cynicism about power and authority.
This cynicism doesn’t make me right but it does cause me to look beyond the headlines, beyond the obvious, beyond the constant opinion and search for truth in a world that has forgotten or really doesn’t care very much about it. Fake news, Hollywood opinion makers, race mind, media bullshit, and voter disinterest and naivete have combined to make this an interesting, if not confused and scary time in history.
Ah, but there are some voices in the wilderness that are far more eloquent and informed than I and I value, whether I totally agree or not, their thoughts and words. One of the more common sense pieces that I have read in recent weeks comes from a Canadian journalist with a strong streak of common sense and an incredible command of vocabulary and insight – Rex Murphy.
Immigration has become a topic filled with opinion, fear and pixie dust in recent months – even before Trump’s recent executive order. In addition to offering asylum to people who are simply trying to create a better life for themselves, should we be doing much more to help them stay home and create a better life for themselves and their fellow citizens there? Yes, it’s easy to say that we should look after our self interests first, feed the hungry, make education more accessible and so much more but do we, as human beings, have a responsibility to the other inhabitants of our planet? Should the wealthier countries give a hand up to the poorer? We need to answer the question for ourselves and then create the answers for our nations.
And finally, I am so disappointed in myself. I copied the following text that I was so amazed by but somehow didn’t copy the writer’s name. If anyone recognizes this passage and can send me the person’s name, I would really like to add that credit – she deserves it for sure. It may seem a bit long but it is definitely worth reading from an American recently travelling in Europe and her impressions:
It’s interesting to see how the world sees “us” in the US. For the past 15 days, Clark Kent and I have been in France and Germany. We’ve had some incredible conversations with our hosts in both countries. Here are the high/mid/lowlights from those conversations and experiences:
1) Police Violence: It is incomprehensible to Europeans how any person could have multiple bullets put into them at the hands of police…and how this keeps happening.
2) Politics: They think Donald Trump is scary and a joke at the same time. They call him a “reality TV star.”
3) Healthcare: They don’t understand why we have so many problems with our healthcare, nor do they understand the resistance Americans have to universal healthcare.
4) Muslims & Refugees: While in Munich, we walked by a seemingly well-organized anti-Muslim protest. No one paid the protesters any attention and simply walked by. There are former US Army bases with tons of empty barracks in the town I’m currently in that are being used to house Syrian refugees as well.
5) Cost of Living: I’ve never paid more than €0.59 (roughly $0.70) for fresh baguette in France (€1.29 in Germany). Cured meats and cheeses here are ridiculously cheap. Supermarkets are few and fresh food is plentiful from local markets. Clark and I are both astonished at how little we’ve paid for groceries here (as we’ve eaten all but 3 meals in for our entire trip). The subways/trains in both Paris and Munich cost less than the CTA in Chicago.
As someone who’s had the gift of living in places other than America, here’s something that hit me last night while walking through town with our generous host:
We all wish on the same stars each night. No matter where you are in the world, we can spend our days worried about this and that and all have our crises and catastrophes. But wherever you might be — there’s something out there that’s worth learning. Understanding. To think a single population is the best at anything and everything is to miss out on the person some thousands of miles away, wishing on that same star you are tonight and what the world looks like to them.
You might be wishing you had lower healthcare premiums. They might be wishing that their baby lives to see one more day.
You might be wishing for a promotion so you can get that bigger house for your growing family. They might be wishing for a place — anyplace — to call home.
You might be wishing for a government to back off your guns. They might be wishing that their “government” didn’t have so many.
You might be wishing that some people didn’t have the legal right to marry or adopt or build families because of your values and beliefs. They might be wishing for they day when their wives and children, whom they had to leave behind as their homeland became a war zone, can join them in the land that’s given them refuge.
You might wish you didn’t have to pay so much in taxes. That person on the other side of the world might be wishing for the day where he or she sees a paycheck because they finally got a job.
We all wish on the same stars. And this trip for the past 16 days has reminded me that I live in a world where people take the time to see me and the world I live in each day.
The least I can do is learn about their world and how they live in it each day.
And tonight, I think my starry wish will be for the person who’s wishing on the same star as me, though unknown and perhaps thousands of miles away…
for that person to get all of my wish juice.
It’s a big world out there. Let’s better learn how to share it.