Tomorrow, people will celebrate our nation’s independence day. Already the frenzy over grabbing the best cuts of beef, ribs, chicken, fish, and a whole gamut of vegetables, has been a dizzying scene at most food retailers. Families and friends will gather at backyards or parks. They will clink their beer bottles together. They will chat as they stir and turn the sizzling carcasses over hot coals. The kids will be running around playing games. There will be music blaring, thanks to someone’s custom playlist. And there will be flags, banners, bandanas in the requisite red, white and blue.
They say that in order to understand a race or a nation, it is important to understand the underlying value that they live by. It is only through this that we can begin to understand what drives them to certain actions, laws, cultural norms, and even to extremes to preserve that value in their lives. When we truly understand this, we can use it to speak about change in the context of the value. Maybe, just maybe, we can get through to them.
To the Brits, the overarching value is the stoic soldiering on in the face of hardship and adversity. Non-complaining. Stiff upper lip. Plodding on no matter what. There will be a light at the end of this suffering.
To people in the Middle East, their overarching value is honor. Honor to the family, to the name of the clan or tribe. All sacrifices have to be made in order to preserve or regain honor from whatever is perceived to have tarnished it.
Americans would defend and die for their personal freedoms. They would be very wary of anything that may infringe on such, even to the extent of sacrificing some human needs. These freedoms are believed to have been hard-fought, hard-earned. Taken to an extreme, it has created such a quagmire in the laws that govern the land. We are the only first world country that still cannot embrace universal health care. This is because along with personal freedoms is the belief in self-reliance, which is admirable until it is taken to an extreme. Healthcare is seen as an earned privilege, not a human right.
We are also the only ones who still have an “OK Corral” mentality towards guns. And yet, we discriminate against women and minorities, and we let our religious biases color our judgment on what is fair, what is reasonable, what is pragmatic.
Yes, we are still a young nation compared to Europe. We are still evolving. It will entail wide swings in the pendulum of things. However, I don’t believe in extremes of anything. I also believe in the “we” and not always the “I” of things. As Confucius always recommended, moderation is always key to a good balance. Or something like that. Happy Fourth!