- The Americentrics
By Didi Gorman
A while back I wrote an essay about the impact of regional conflicts on a nation’s sense of security. It was not an analysis of any country specifically, more of a global reflection.
I did reference the American-Canadian border in the text, as an example of a peaceful border and a token of geopolitical stability. (This was long before the COVID-19-related border closures.) I described how I had traveled from Canada to the United States on one occasion, crossing between the two countries at a checkpoint in a small, rural town straddling the border, which was comprised of a row of flowerpots in full blossom, with no fences and no wires.
The text also alluded, without mentioning any particular country, to other places in the world where such a border-crossing experience would be unimaginable.
From readers’ comments in the following days, I was glad to see that the text had sparked a discussion on what it meant to be a safe, stable country.
But I quickly learned that in most readers’ minds, that discussion only applied locally – to America. Some readers brought up the situation at the Mexican border, but that’s as far as it went. No one talked about any country outside North America.
Only that I had hoped the article would inspire readers to expand their gaze beyond North America. The events that had prompted me to write that article had nothing to do with home, actually: the volatile tensions in the Middle East, the upheaval in Hong Kong, and the fighting between Russia and Ukraine, all of which were still happening at the time the article was published.
I had assumed most readers knew about these simmering hotspots.
I was wrong. Most readers had not made the connection between the text and any of those places.
It was understandable, of course, why readers would associate the text primarily with the situation at home. There had been, after all, enough unrest in the USA at the same time too. Still, something about the exclusive focus on America struck me as unhealthy.
For our own good, we can’t afford NOT to know about stuff that happens far away from North America; not only because we’re a world-leading power and as such we need to know about the world we’re in, but also because sooner or later we’ll be faced with repercussions from those remote unrests (which tend never to stay confined to the distant and turbulent regions they originate from, but to reach us here all the same, in all manner of ways).
If nothing else, let the stories of trouble in other corners of the globe serve us as cautionary tales. My apologies for the vague language but I’ll have to leave it at that.
If COVID can teach us anything, it’s that what happens elsewhere often has a dire impact on us here. We’re not separate from the rest of the world.
Now, let’s fast forward to the deadly explosion in Lebanon a couple of weeks ago: hundreds of casualties, thousands of injuries, the city of Beirut (Lebanon’s capital, where the explosion had taken place) in total mayhem.
How many of us even know where Lebanon is?
Even now, after Lebanon had seized the headlines in the past few weeks, statistics show that too many of us don’t know where it is nor are particularly interested in finding out.
For those of us who still believe that the entirety of our attention should be focused only internally (given there’s just too much going on in the States these days), I would like to suggest that becoming informed about other places is not mutually exclusive with acknowledging problems at home. We can do both. On the contrary, it will do us good to look at other countries and perhaps learn from them what not to do.
We are not the only nation grappling with what being a free, democratic nation means these days, nor are we the only ones pondering the issues of human rights, or how to resurrect our economy.
My apologies again for leaving the language abstract rather than giving specific examples. My aim is to inspire a spirit of inquisitiveness and curiosity, not to provide simple answers to complex topics.
Ultimately, though, reading up on other countries will reveal to us a lot about ourselves.