Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blessed are the Peacemakers

In my last post, I mentioned the down side of being a people pleaser. The  extreme version is someone who is so eager to be liked that he actually has no sense of self.
Being a peace lover is radically different. A lover of peace is not afraid of conflict; indeed, he will take more than a little criticism in pursuit of what is often the most difficult choice.
Such are Aisam-ul-Haq Kureshi of Pakistan and Rohan Bopanna of India. Against all odds and the will of many of their countrymen, these two professional tennis players teamed up at last month's US Open in the men's doubles competition in a symbolic act that went far, far beyond their excellent level of play. (They went all the way to the finals and lost against two of their admirers, Bob and Mike Bryan of the US.) Their message was so loud and clear that even the UN ambassadors of the two archrival nations sat side by side to watch the historic match.
The two players admittedly didn't have world peace -- or even regional peace -- in mind when they first decided to become doubles partners. They simply thought it would help each other's game. But they soon realized they had become good will ambassadors and gladly stepped into the role, sporting matching track suits at Wimbledon that read, "Stop war, start tennis."
Would to God that their governments would sit up and pay attention.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oh Would Some Power...

By nature, I have always been a people  pleaser. A fear of conflict drove me to maintain the peace, no matter what the cost. In my old age -- or perhaps I could be bold enough to say, as I've matured -- I've become less afraid to disagree with someone and more willing to express what I feel and believe. I have to admit, however, that to a large degree, I still care what others think of me.
Have you ever wondered what other people think of you as a nation or culture? During my travels this past summer, I spent a good deal of time interviewing Europeans on their impressions of American culture. Some were careful to point out that there is a difference between Americans and American culture.
I've also begun interviewing non-Americans residing in the US about their experience adapting to life in these United States. Their stories are both compelling and diverse.
If you are among those Americans who couldn't care less what other people think, or about the impact -- both positive and negative -- American culture has had in the world over the last century, World to the Wise might not be for you. But if you're among the culturally curious who believe what is projected from this country matters, stay tuned.
To quote the great Scottish poet Robert Burns:
     "O would some power the Giftie gie' us
      To see ourselves as others see us."