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Posts Tagged ‘tolerance’

Americans are the people the world loves to hate.  Their larger than life national persona, is a crucible that polarizes people’s opinions.

They are arguably, loud, arrogant, ignorant, hawkish bullies.  Intolerant religious fundamentalists, oblivious to the impact their moral certitude has on others, they live with a flamboyant sense of entitlement.

They are also an open, friendly and generous people with a national culture of service.  They are confident, courageous, determined, intelligent, social and scientific innovators and achievers,  who have made innumerable and immeasurable contributions to the world.

It is however, ever so much easier to focus on and be suspicious of the differences in others than it is to stand back and reflect on our own personal and national failings.

In spite of living within walking distance of the USA for the past 15 years and spending a cumulative total of abut a month in Ohio, spread out over 6 years during my daughter’s time at school, the week we spent in Florida when we went to watch the shuttle launch last week proved to be the first time I took the opportunity to more objectively observe Americans and to observe my own reactions and judgements.

America is a challenge for me.  As an introvert, I find myself both in awe of and intimidated by the effortless enthusiasm and passion of the extraverted American persona.

If you didn’t already know or suspect, America is statistically a nation of extraverts.  There are many theories about why that is so, but whether it is a biological population of extraverts who survived the harsh conditions of emigration to a new world, or it is a cultural self-selection of people who founded a new nation and thrived,  it doesn’t really matter.  It just is.

Coming from a culture that is inclined to be quieter, and less aggressive than America, it is easy to focus on those areas where we experience friction and discomfort.  However, in our own way, if we are to be honest, we are guilty of harboring an unwarranted, holier than thou, highly judgmental attitude towards our neighbors.

Canadians have our own cultural and individual strengths and weaknesses with which to contend. We are not better or worse, merely different.

We will not always find a comfortable cultural ‘fit’ between nations, but if we are ever to achieve a measure of peace in the world, we must learn to take responsibility for creating understanding, tolerance and eventually an appreciation of our differences with others, rather than focusing on the inevitable areas of friction.

Ultimately we are all human.  We have the same basic needs and desires.  We are not so different from one another that we cannot find common ground on which to build.

Taking personal responsibility for our attitudes and beliefs and being willing to let go of ‘being right’ about those beliefs will empower us to create a culture of peace and to build peaceful relations with our neighbors and eventually with our enemies.

We must embrace the belief, that if we are to have peace, it begins with me.

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