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Each year as people gather to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we’re suddenly all Irish. Apparently the phenomenon isn’t unique to the U.S. A line from an Irish song encouraging musicians to play Irish pipes or drums so they’ll always have a job says, “Wherever you go around the world, you’ll find an Irish pub.” Annually, someone observes the irony that Irish workers were once despised (as workers from other ethnic groups took their turns being hated). How is it the citizens of the world are able to set differences aside in order to celebrate and then commence hating again?
Ignoring the considerable contribution of good beer or whiskey, people everywhere are glad to party. We celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Juneteenth, and other holidays—religious and secular—with gusto. We like being a part of a happy group, taking a break from the troubles life dumps on us all. For a brief intermission, we’re simply people having a good time—and we all need a good time while we’re enduring a pandemic and its attendant ills or some other world threat. Belonging is a powerful need, according to Maslow. What is it that convinces us we need to separate ourselves into hostile camps at other times?
Television cameras take us into conflicts now. Wars that were (and are, in Russian propaganda) billed as glorious don’t look so noble when you see the human cost on both sides. Three cheers for the hackers that inserted the truth on Russian TV! We watch as Russian troops kill mothers and children and grandparents in Ukraine. We watch as some Russian soldiers find ways to opt out because they can no longer defy conscience. The victims look like relatives, which makes identification harder to avoid.
Putin wasn’t expecting so much push-back from countries he was threatening with nukes, but he isn’t empathetic. He may not even have the capacity to be. He can’t comprehend human compassion when his influence and ego are at stake. Like all bullies, he thought fear would work to empower him, so he extends the murder. However, nearby countries know he can’t guarantee a nuclear response won’t destroy his country, as well. His military has never seemed so weak. (There goes the surge of pride and power.) The more we recognize the common destiny of the world family, the more we stick up for one another.
The fact that the world has shrunk beneath the tightening strings of electronic communication and travel isn’t a news flash. It’s been shrinking for some time. That means we can’t help bumping into people we like to think of as “other” when they’re simply living daily life as we do. We have to work to ignore our essential similarity beneath our superficial diversity. The other day I noticed how changed the world looks now that I see more people with myelinated (darkened) skin or Asian eyes or multiple gender families in TV commercials or programs or films. Suddenly, I’m seeing the world as it always was but was curtained away from me by people who fear exposure to growth. It’s so much more interesting than bland sameness!
Some are afraid because now we have more to try to understand, but the fearless are delighted to see a human world as diverse and wondrous as the biological world. People who traveled not in isolated pods of tourists but allowing themselves to integrate with the locals as Rick Steves does, know how stimulating and enriching it is to see the world through the eyes of another culture. As our populations diversify, the world comes to us. Some do their best to hide and pretend life can scroll backward if they pass enough restrictive laws. But the rest are beginning to smile in anticipation of a brighter, more colorful life. Think of the increase in potential celebrations we can have!