I have been "reflecting" since the closing of your March 24 broadcast. A number of thoughts pass thru my mind.
Foremost is having seen & experienced what Mr. Appiah suggests. Conversation first as a way to establish trust & understanding, then "agreement to disagree". I have been fortunate to travel with a few people, now friends, to spend time with and photographing hill tribes, migratory tribes, boat dwellers as well as small town dwellers in Burma (5 times), India (2 times), Laos (2 times), North Vietnam, Cambodia, central China, Uzbekistan, and Jordan(between intafadas.) We enter these remote villages cautiously, not in thought of our own safety, but hoping not to startle the residents. We engage in conversation out of pure interest & respect - acceptance having replaced judgement as soon as we leave US airspace. We find that interest returned. Conversations may sometimes lead to deeper issues - religion, politics. With one exception we have never tried to convince, or be convinced by the other party. We often marvel that, at the most basic unit of these societies, the tribe, that neither of us wants to do the other harm. And we wonder collectively what it is that dilutes these attitudes & feelings as individuals gain political and/or military power. (As to photography, we NEVER make a photograph without permission, nor do we photograph anything that might embarass or belittle the subject. We may wait hours before a camera is drawn,)The exception I refer to above took place in Amman, Jordan as my wife & I approached an open market, a large man appeared from one of the stalls shaking his fist and yelling "Americans no good". Without hesitation we approached him and asked him why. Neither of us spoke the others language, but we were soon surrounded by others, among whom was someone who could translate. I asked him if I was "no good"? Was my wife "no good"?. No we were OK but Americans no good. "But", I said, many, many Americans are like us. Are they no good"? We eventually got to the heart of the matter, which was his dislike of American intervention is other nations. After further conversation, we agreed that a nations' leaders may be " no good", but that ordinary folks don't always agree with their leaders.We eventually shared tea, shook hands, and parted. Next day our group of 8 people went back to that market. Out he came, ready to shake his fist. When he saw Elise & me, he exclaimed "Americans Good - leaders no good". My point is that we each learned something about the other, there were other issues we disagreed on, but neither of us wanted to destroy the other.Again & again we have learned that "ordinary" people want to live their lives in peace & friendship, regardless of the stated but not defended differences.
THe other thought is a saying that I now live by. When I find myself trying to convince another person that my view is a correct one, I ask myself "Is this a hill I want to die on?" I've found very, very few of death worthy hills." Mr.Appiah said in an elegant and understandable way how I try to live my life, and helped me to know and feel that I am on the right path.Thank you very much.SincerelyWoody Widlund
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