Our son Don and his family participate in a Council for International Students attending nearby Cal State Fullerton and several other local colleges in the area. Members of the group, all volunteers, track the college rolls for incoming foreign students. The council members meet them at the airport as they arrive from their overseas homes and see to transportation to their new college. They then insure that housing is arranged. Then too the council members welcome the international students into their own homes for a three day period before classes start to assure the young people that they are welcome in this country. The goal is to have the young people gain a good impression of the United States of America. The council members also plan events for all the foreign students on American holidays especially Valentines Day, the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
On the occasion of our visit to Yorba Linda Don arranged for two German students that he had sponsored to dine with us in his home one evening. Don and family are also provide a home for a young lady from Haiphong, (formerly North) Vietnam while she is attending a private high school.
One, Emanuel or Manny for short is a pure ethnic German from Stuttgart and the other, Junice (that translates to Jonah in English) was born to a German mother and an Iraqi father that now live in Frankfurt. Junice is an adherent to the Muslim religion. His parents met in Germany but had lived in Iraq for thirty years and departed for Frankfurt during the Iraq war. Both young men are in the USofA studying on scholarships, one a Fulbright, and the other funded by the German State.
It was interesting to draw the three into a conversation as to what America is doing right and wrong in the current political climate. Both the Germans were sensitive to the fact that, in their opinion, America tends to bully itself into the affairs of other countries. The Iraqi German was convinced that we invaded Iraq under false pretenses -- Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. I got no clear answer as to whether the world was better off since the demise of Saddam Hussein. He was not optimistic that a democratic government would survive in Iraq in part because his people were not educated in how a democracy works. He felt that many of the young people there have lost hope and motivation for the future. He expressed his opinion that America does not listen to the concerns of his country's people and that we are guilty of killing way too many innocent people. Having lived in Iraq during a time of US sanctions his complaint was that sanctions hurt the common people and have little effect on those in power.
We asked these two students if they could communicate to Americans one message what would it be? Both agreed that Americans need to be better listeners and try to understand the world community better before making decisions to interfere with the sovereignty of other nations. Ultimately each nation's citizens need to take responsibly for their own actions; good or bad, and they tend to resent a solution forced upon them by outsiders including us Americans.
If you think about it Americas does a lot that is right for the world but we also have done a lot of wrong. In the right column we support many nations financially. We import many goods and services from around to the world supporting the world's financial health. We also export food products and technology out of the USA, things that have improved the lives of countless millions. Americans have even taken the part in advancing liberty as we understand it from a Christian background around the world. Even today we are the largest sending nation of missionaries. When natural disasters strike, like the one that just happened in Japan, the USA is always the biggest national giver of charitable donations. These are all things that fall into the column of good deeds.
However, there is a lot that Americans export/import that is not so good. We are the largest exporter of tobacco and the largest importer of marijuana and other illegal drugs. We also export our music and entertainment from movies and television. To think that in the eyes of foreigners the "average American" might be the people on Baywatch and or Jerry Springer (have you ever watched that show?....horrible!). Some of the movies that come out of Hollywood are so bad that most decent people I know would never pay money to watch that garbage. Most unfortunately America is also a huge exporter of pornography.
No wonder people from the Muslim faith don't like us to the point they are willing to die for their faith. They don't want this poison from the American culture affecting the lives of their children. They view their life as a better more moral lifestyle, and maybe to some extent it is.
So what can we do better for the nations that we are trying to influence for good? Maybe we ought to do what our German friends are suggesting. Let's try and be better listeners and maybe try to focus more on exporting what is good from America and limit the garbage. It may start by just befriending someone from another culture who lives in our town or even volunteer to be a pen pal or facebook friend with an individual in a foreign country. The world will be a better place if we can do our part in being more understanding of our neighbors both foreign and domestic.
The little Vietnamese lady, Kelly (Cao Minh is a little hard for Americans to pronounce) all the age of 17, called the recent war in her country the "American War." I suggested that the war was a result of the North Vietnamese invading their southern neighbors and that America was trying to help South Vietnam in preventing that invasion. Communism was a term that she didn't understand. She rather ignored my suggestion that the wrong side won, we lost, and then the North murdered more than 3 million of the former South Vietnamese as they consolidated the country into the modern Vietnam. Evidently the history that she was taught in school might have been a slightly different version from what I remember.
It was a most interesting evening as we all made great effort to be non-confrontational. We all departed as friends. Hopefully the exposure of these young people into the lives of common Americans will leave a lasting impression that we all share similar aspirations to live in a world of peace, respect and love for our fellow man.
That is the way that I saw it.