Archive for Thursday, March 2, 2006

Life Lites

Tolerance needed in shrinking world

March 2, 2006

The United States is probably the most loved, most hated and the probably the most misunderstood country in the world. There are thousands of people around the world who dream of coming here to find the American dream.

Some people are willing to risk their lives for a chance to live here. Then there are those who hate America with a passion for what it stands and its stand on world politics. Sadly, some of these people live within our shores.

Then, we have the few who are not sure what to make of this country, unfortunately some of these people are the American citizens themselves.

There was a time when the borders of the countries in the world were defined and to a certain extend, very protected. There was a very clear and distinct process when people traveled between countries and that travel was considered a privilege.

Today, with the advancements we have made, the world truly has become a smaller place. Many travel barriers are broken, including the speed of travel, and many countries have adopted liberal and friendly policies to make their borders more open to tourists. That was until Sept. 11, 2001.

That fateful day would forever change the way man looked at a person from another country. While it caused an upsurge in patriotism in America, it also brought up many cultural profilings and skepticism with the many different cultures living in this nation. Even the way we do business with other countries is now affected.

The recent uproar with regard to an Untied Arab Emirates company managing the U.S. ports has caused the cynicisms and cultural stereotype to rear its ugly head.

No matter how much we convince ourselves that we don't have that in us, I think there is some part of it that is laying dormant in us, only to be awakened when an event such as the one at UEA is brought to light.

I'm not an expert in the UAE's port matter, but I am convinced that the main reason it's making the news is because UAE is an Islamic country. The fear of terrorism automatically sweeps in. If some European country did this, I bet we would not have even heard about this.

I'm convinced that many people never even heard of Dubai or the United Arab Emirates, but more people today fear that country then those who actually knew the name of that country before this news broke.

Again, I claim no expertise in this matter, but I think I can smell when cultural profiling is in effect.

I've been to Dubai and it is a beautiful and modern city and not as radical as some of the other Muslim countries. I'm convinced that people would be pleasantly surprised if they visited there.

Although many of us probably won't lose sleep over this event, I fear this kind of profiling that lies dormant may indeed permeate some of our interactions with people from other culture.

It could be kind of a different culture starting to attend your kids school, a new business owned and operated by a foreign national or anything that may involve someone from a different culture.

What we preach will be put to the test in those moments. Do we really believe what we preach about tolerating different cultures or do we get a bit uncomfortable when it moves in close to us?

How can we be truly free from such cultural stereotyping? I think it all starts in us being educated. When we hear about the different world events, do we act on those emotions or do we take the time to understand and learn more about the culture and its people? The slightest act of ignorance, anger or resentment, if left unchecked will blossom into a huge tree of bitterness.

The Midwest might be a little secluded to such wide spreads of cultural profiling, but there is no hiding the ignorance that fosters this kind of behavior.

Next time you come across someone from an Islamic country, check your thought process. Judge for yourself what you just thought. You might be surprised at what you find out.

I understand the fear of terrorism and the need to protect our interest and safety. But with the world becoming a much smaller place, I see a challenge in the way we interact with the foreign nationals versus the ability to live without the underlying current of cultural profiling.

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