Steamboat Springs When Barack Obama stood before 200,000 people in Germany and declared, "I come to you as an American citizen and as a world citizen," he struck a chord in my heart. Later in his talk, he said that we Americans now must approach foreign policy with humility. The chord in my heart expanded to a symphony.
Yes, humility. For years, even in war, we were guided by our innate sense of humanity and by our participation in the Geneva Conventions. Now, with images of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo interrogations hanging over our heads, we are no longer a beacon of fairness and respect for humankind. I cringe at the realization that "shock and awe" was carried out in my name. I cry at the thought of thousands dead because of our leaders' lies. I don't like being the global classroom bully.
Two books and the recent Steamboat Seminar with Strobe Talbott have brought me hope this summer. The first book is Greg Mortenson's "Three Cups of Tea." Mortenson is the mountain climber who stumbled, lost and ill with exhaustion, into the tiny Pakistani village of Korphe after a failed attempt to climb K2. The Muslim villagers nursed him back to health and awakened in him a passion that has become a new model for foreign policy. We learn from Mortenson that the true way to fight terrorism is to go directly to its root cause. Sit down and drink tea with the villagers, learn their language and customs, find out what they need. And then work with them to build their simple schools and educate their children. Mortenson's method may not be fast, but it fosters life-long relationships and pride of ownership that are invaluable.
We can no longer approach foreign aid with the goal of gaining resources and riches for ourselves. We are citizens of the world, and, as such, we must work together with our global neighbors toward health and peace.
The other remarkable book is David Korten's "The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community." So many exciting ideas emanate from this work that I can't possibly address them here. But two unshakable convictions shine through: one, we can and must simplify our lives, reduce our demands on the resources of this planet and seek satisfaction from the non-material things of this world; and two, after 5,000 years of hierarchical dominance of some humans over others, we can and must learn to live on this planet as cooperative, egalitarian, democratic and peace-loving members of Earth's community.
In the recent Steamboat Seminar, Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution, spoke to us of the need for global governance. He stated unequivocally that, indeed, we can be American citizens and world citizens at the same time. Our leaders must pick up the pieces of the international treaties we have dismantled and ignored. For the sake of our children's children, we must have a nuclear non-proliferation treaty; we must endorse and actively support the practice required by Kyoto.
So after years of despair, I am cautiously optimistic. I do have hope that we can learn to live sustainably in cooperation with our neighbors, no longer the global classroom bully.