I was never really one to follow politics closely, nor was I ever one to really care about anything outside of music, finding a girlfriend, hanging out with friends, or thinking about what I might want to do the following day, week, month, or year. Usually it involved slogging through life keeping myself happy. Recently, however, this has changed drastically.
In 2002 a very good friend of mine decided to enroll in the United States Army, for many reasons that I will not claim to know – I will let him explain those himself. However, there is one reason that I’m sure he did not intend to use as a motivation for committing the next three years of his life to the federal government – to open my eyes to a world of confusing hate, ignorance, misjudgment and misguided religious fervor.
In 2004, the United States held an election for our most celebrated and probably least leveraged-for-good political position, the presidency. Now, please note I cannot claim to be a Democrat, nor a Republican. I think claiming allegiance to any political party is a sign of ignorance and weakness, as failed as it may be from a political power or getting-things-done perspective. At any rate, I suited up for for the barrage of facts and dug into the Internet and mainstream news as I quickly realized that I should actually do some research since my vote was so important. Let’s try really hard to make up my own mind and find my own information, shall we?
I quickly found that I was no longer asking questions like, “What DOES George Bush’s action really mean to global stability?” and “How DO Kerry and the Democrats plan to quell violence and people killing other people?” but … “Who CARES what Kerry did 30 years ago in Vietnam?!?!” and “Why should I care where Bush was when back in the 70s?!?!” I quickly found that I was overcome with information that I didn’t have the means or the will to sort out. Most of it was political in-fighting, mud slinging, and issues that I put on par with people calling into American Idol to vote for their favorite amateur of the week. Where was the future of our country, where was the future of the world?
But in all my searching, never once did I run into a good answer for the question of “Why is my best friend in Iraq?”. Where did it all begin,before he had even though of joining the service. It was this questioning and my recent focus on international business that has led me down the path of a 3 month re-exploration of world history, and it has been brutal on my mind lately.
Now I am not claiming to be a scholar, to know everything, or even to know a little. But the few things that I have learned have been completely eye opening, educational, and frankly … disgusting. Not because of the specifics of how many times heads of states have re-neged on promises made to foreign lands, but how out of touch we are as Americans with the rest of the world. Ask an average American what actually has led to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and see what answer you get. Ask them about East Timor and Cambodia. Ask them what part they think their country is playing in affecting the greater whole of world stability, the role religion plays in people’s perceptions of the middle-east conflict, and how we can do even better with the power we have.
In my mind, the same people who cannot give me a decent answer are as petty and insignificant as the people who live by the next episode of “Desperate Housewives”. Perhaps we are really just fighting for the right for Teri Hatcher to get even skinnier, sounds plausible.
There is something entirely and incredibly unbalanced about the way we live as Americans …. perhaps afterall, that is the American way. Mike, I miss ya and I’m super proud of you. You are truly doing something that I admire. To all my friends who have lead me to think about this deeply and have given me their thoughts on the subject, thanks in advance. To everyone else, I have no words at the moment.
One Reply to “A Self Education on World History”
Being stationary in life and location leads to layers of ignorance. I have had the good fortune of traveling a good chunk of the world. In that time I have developed an appreciation and warm love for it’s people. Especially Japan and it’s people. My return vacation last September cemented that feeling and it shall last forever! Get out there people! Earn an education that you can’t get in a book. Be a citizen of the world!