The visit to Idyllwild by seven Rotarians from South Africa and Botswana last week was a great experience for all. Imagine hearing lions in your backyard at night instead of coyotes. But as different as some of our experiences are, the similarities were more numerous.
One of the visitors was a university professor, a couple were accountants, most were retired. As is typical of Rotarians, they spoke about the projects their clubs had started. One particularly moving one was a remodel of a woman’s home. She had eight foster children at any one time and only one bathroom. Rotary helped her put in more bathrooms and set up a study room so the kids had enough space to do their homework.
Another project fixed up a “hole in the wall” where women could drop off their newborns anonymously, similar to what has been implemented in some cities in the U.S. It seems there are a lot of women who cannot care for their children for many reasons, mostly extreme poverty, and having a place to take them gives these kids a chance at life.
Someone told me a long time ago that he thought there were two types of Americans: those with a passport and those without. Not sure if that is entirely correct but it may have an element of truth to it.
It is easy to focus on the differences between us, but exposure to others helps us to understand how much we are alike. We all want a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, a sense of personal security. And, to varying degrees, we all want to help those who have been less lucky in life than we have been.
There has been a recent resurgence of nationalism in many countries, most notably the Netherlands, France, Austria and the U.S. One author has called the struggle between globalism and nationalism the “ideological struggle of the 21st century,” and another said that the trend means “celebrating America’s diversity less, and its unity more.” Although the economic effects of globalism have been cited, the threats are often perceived as more cultural than economic. The extremes are total isolationism with closed borders and a single-world government without borders. If these seem unlikely, consider North Korea and the European Union and how close they come.
What about the United States? Where will we end up? Probably somewhere in the middle, to be sure, but, like most countries, constantly moving back and forth depending on political and economic circumstances.
So, are we citizens of the United States or the world? The simplistic but inadequate answer is “yes,” but how we juggle the question as a nation is important, so each of us should try to stay informed and vote intelligently.
In the meantime, as this plays out, I am happy for the opportunity to interact with people from Southern Africa, the students from numerous nations at Idyllwild Arts and the citizens of Idyllwild who come from many different cultures.
Dr. Kluzak, an Idyllwild resident, is board certified in Anatomic Pathology, Obstetrics and Gynecology. He also is a freelance photographer for the Town Crier.