One of the many advantages of travel is creating some distance from one’s normal cultural surroundings.
One of my habits while traveling in other countries is to consciously ignore events that might be taking place back home. Given the ease with which one can keep track of events at home abroad while on the road, maintaining the blackout requires some effort. It appears to be much easier for me than for others.
The focus for me when traveling is the culture in which I find myself. Inter-cultural experiences are eminently invaluable because they force one to see the world, as much as is possible, in terms otherwise inaccessible due to deeply seated cultural biases.
While on the road in Sicily, I found myself thinking about the infinite variety of cultural divides that characterize the present state of acrimonious discourse in this country. Frankly, it was refreshing, and pleasantly comforting, to be so far away from its toxic reach that I could actually think about it somewhat more objectively – or at least as objectively as is possible.
Sitting on a weather worn stone seat in a Greek theater built in 440 B.C. in Segesta, Sicily, I wondered quietly to myself what it would take for us to rid ourselves of the destructive toxicity of our contemporary politics and find ways of more graciously coming to terms with one another. Swathed in the penetrating warmth of an Italian sun, I envisioned multiple possibilities, no one surfacing as the best last hope. As I sit here watching our own sun melt away the snow that blanketed our hillside yesterday morning, obviously influenced by being in a place once an integral part of ancient Greece, it seems clear to me that if we are to change course we need to rid ourselves of the hubris that under-girds our relations in general and our politics in particular. Until we do that, we will get nowhere and our body politic will disintegrate, if it has not already, into an even more ineffective, utterly useless jumble of self-nourishing egoism.