It is seriously beyond my comprehension why we seem hell bent on shutting one another out in this contemporary world. The Brexit vote was a disappointment, and as I watch from afar what has taken place in Great Britain, I see a lot of similarities to what is dividing us politically in the United States.
In this world of instant messaging and hyper-emphasis on social media, why do we still think it is okay to focus on just ourselves? Have we become strictly nations of narcissists? Have we become a world of “me first” thinkers? More importantly, if that’s how we define ourselves as individuals and as nations, what can we do to turn that around?
How did the United Kingdom do a complete turn-around from its very long history of colonizing territories worldwide to shutting itself off from its next door neighbors? Is it going to give up all those other territories now in order to isolate itself further? I doubt it.
Here in the US, how is it that we have gone from Ronald Reagan standing by the Brandenburg Gate imploring, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” in 1987, to “We’re gonna build a wall” in 2016? There were many positions taken by former President Reagan with which I could not agree, but I could never argue with his ability to make a good speech and always agreed with his drive to end the Cold War and bring nations together. We all remember one line from his speech at the Berlin Wall, but it also included another great line that turned out to be prophetic: “Across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.”
If we can learn anything from history, the key take-away should be that isolationism is never the answer. Many historians believe that the US policy of isolationism after World War I was a key factor in the onset of World War II. I’m pretty sure Great Britain does not want to repeat that, nor does the rest of Europe. I am saddened by the British vote to separate from EU.
Here in the USA we have a long history of being a proud nation of immigrants. But take a look around the rest of the world. Isn’t that the case almost everywhere now? Since personal air travel became more accessible to individuals for both business and pleasure post World War II, the borders of many countries have been opened in an unprecedented way. It has become harder and harder to claim a single national identity, not just for Americans, but for all peoples everywhere. The advent of the Internet brought us all closer together in different ways, making it possible for people to create bonds with one another from thousands of miles away.
Like it or not, we are a global economy and there is no looking back. Anyone who tells you otherwise is seriously kidding themselves. Great Britain can never shut itself off from its European neighbors economically. The United States can never close its ties with Chinese industry. You may not know it, but even small, local, businesses are importing and exporting goods from around the world all the time now. That manufacturing plant where your father used to work is almost certainly selling its products online now, to buyers in Asia, Africa, and South America. Worldwide trade is commonplace, even among smaller companies that don’t have a multi-national presence.
I have read numerous articles about the key issues in the 2016 US presidential election, and also read numerous articles on the various rationales to “leave” or “stay” in Britain. After all of this reading, it seems clear that the true driving force behind peoples’ votes this year is fear: fear of job loss, fear of immigrants, fear of crime, and fear of a changing social climate. Maybe what really separates us is the bigger question, “What are we afraid of?” My answer to that remains virtually unchanged: I refuse to give in to fear.
Sure, there are lots of things that trigger fear in people for different reasons. But if we become consumed by fear then eventually we won’t even get out of bed in the morning. I simply will not accept that in my life. It’s the prospect of embracing a new day, regardless of what it may bring, that keeps me going. It’s the idea that our differences make us special, that we each come with talents and inabilities, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. It’s the notion that behind the color of our skin, hair, and eyes, behind our gender, behind our economic status, we are all people. We all have families and friends and many of us choose to act in ways that make a difference for others. What separates us can also unite us. If it unites some groups for evil, it can also unite others for good.
I have seldom been accused of optimism, but still feel strongly that there is hope for people to get along with one another. There is hope for individuals and hope for nations. It takes work, and communication is the key. It’s always the key, whether you’re building personal or professional relationships between individuals or between nations. Ironic, isn’t it, that in this age of instant communication, we still can’t find the meaningful words to help us all get along?
With all of our fears, all of our poverty, all of our wealth, all of our colors, all of our faiths, all of our hearts, we are one world. We have no one else in the entire solar system – just us on this single planet. We are one world. We need to start acting like it.