December 9, 2004

Worlds Canít Meet Worlds. But People Can Meet People.

I forget who first said that (the headline, that is) but I like it and I thought about it as I was walking around inside Libya, hanging out, and chatting with regular folks.

One of the most striking things, really, about meeting people in far away lands inside other civilizations isn’t how different they are, but how very much like me they are. It shouldn’t be odd, but somehow it is. Nothing busts up stereotypes better than travel. Common sense and mere mental effort can never compete with it.

It goes both ways, I’m sure. What must it be like for someone who spent their entire life inside a country (like, say, Iraq) where Americans were constantly demonized to come to the United States and hang out with regular people. It’s probably a bit like my experience in Libya.

Granted, Libyans as people were hardly formally demonized in America. But almost every one of my friends and family members thought I was crazy to go there. The unspoken fear was that the people might kill me.

Well, no. Nobody killed me. Nobody even looked at me funny. I knew that’s how it would be from everything I read in advance, but it’s nice to actually experience that and have the old adage “people are people” proven out through experience.

This is a long intro for something I want to point out.

Omar and Mohamed, the two Iraqi bloggers who write at Iraq the Model, are travelling around the United States with Jim Hake from Spirit of America. Jeff Jarvis was lucky enough to meet them. And oh, how I wish I had been there.

It occurred to me it had been a while since I’ve look at their site, so I hopped on over and found this entry from Omar.
I wanted to say that I only knew about the left side of the blogosphere months after we started. I thought that the right side was the whole thing, as in the beginning I thought we were just posting our thoughts 'into the darkness' and get lots of visitors without having any idea were they come from except Iraqi blogs. Later we found about the major blogs such as Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, Buzz Machine, LGF, Tim Blair, Roger Simon, Right Wing news…Etc and for long months I thought these were the only major bloggers! I didn't know because these were the sites linking to us and from were we get lots of visitors and when I used to go to their sites I would find a somewhat similar list. It turned out to be that the other side top bloggers rarely if ever mentioned us or other Iraqi blogs except for the very anti-American ones. I realized lately that the blogosphere was divided into two major parts with very few bridges.
I think that’s sad for all kinds of reasons. But here’s his next sentence:
When I started looking at the 'enemy' I found out that most of them were not that horrible!
Exactly. Exactly.

Most people just aren’t that horrible. Whether they’re red-staters, Libyans, Iraqis, liberals, whatever, people are people.

Everyone knows this already, I know. But sometimes I get the impression when reading political blogs (and the comment section on my own blog) that liberals think neoconservatives have horns, and that heartland Republicans think Bay Area hippies have two heads, both of ‘em tattooed and pierced.

When I peruse the Guardian it sometimes seems like left-wing Europeans actually believe Americans have scuff marks on their knuckles and permanent drool stains on their shirts. Reading right-wing American magazines I sometimes wonder what on Earth some conservatives would think if they hopped on a plane to Paris and discovered that French people don’t have little beady red rat eyes.

Nothing distorts reality like politics and war. Those of us who spend our time on this stuff should try to keep that in mind once in a while. If you’re in a cocoon, try to get out more. It’s good for you. And it feels good, too.

PS - Don't forget to vote for me in the Wizbang awards. Patterico is running neck and neck with me, and I hear he really does have little beady red rat eyes. We can't let a guy like that win this thing, people.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 9, 2004 7:43 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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