Today my guest is author Mark Danielson. Some of you may remember his great pictures from an earlier Friday Field Trip post. He's shared his pictures. Now it's his turn to share some words, showing us the world from his perspective.
I wish every American could see the world as I have, for travel promotes global understanding. As a fighter pilot stationed in Korea in 1977, I traveled extensively throughout Asia. As a current airline pilot, I have circumnavigated the world countless times. While each trip is unique, my experience has shown that politics aside, people are people, regardless of how they dress, the color of their skin, the religion they practice, or the language they speak.
From thirty-five thousand feet, there are no borders, the air is clear, the earth a cornucopia of color. Cities spread like spilt milk, rivers and highways are capillaries, mountain ranges resemble lemon meringue pies, and there is no evidence of war. Welcome to Utopia.
As a child of the 50s, I was taught that Russia was our enemy, and later, that Red China’s Communism would consume our world. But while such ideologies pushed us to the brink of nuclear war, I’ve since learned that the people of these countries and others share the same basic values of every American; to raise their children in a loving, peaceful environment. Interestingly, those with fewer material possessions tend to have closer family ties. In part, this is by necessity, but their smiles and warm hospitality are genuine. Who could have imagined that China and the United States would become co-dependent on international commerce?
With each passing generation, war bias fades. To most, World War II is a history lesson. Few scars remain. When I walk the streets of Japan, I feel no animosity. Instead, I am greeted with friendly salutes by street police. In Germany, I am treated like family wherever I go. In China, I confidently walk the back streets, exchanging smiles and nods with anyone who looks up. Kazakhstan is the only country where I am reluctant to venture out.
Dubai is a wonderland of sky scrapers and manufactured islands, boasting some of the greatest engineering marvels in the world. Determination, along with laborers from Pakistan, India, and Africa, created this Arab-run world-class city. But in spite of this city’s fast pace, commerce comes to a halt during their time of daily worship. This is their way of life, and we have no business questioning or criticizing it.
There is far more to India than the Taj Mahal, brilliant fabrics, and over-crowded streets. Its people are friendly and proud of their heritage. They tolerate all forms of religion, and in spite of prolonged tensions, enthusiastically share evening border rituals with neighboring Pakistan. Smiles light up on both sides as the gates are closed for the night. Sunrise welcomes another day.
My travels have taught me that bias equates to ignorance. Treating others with respect applies to everyone, regardless of their religion or culture. Smiles are contagious. Blending in and treading softly are necessities.
Perhaps because the United States is a melting pot, we have forgotten about national pride, but other countries haven’t. Pride should never be confused with arrogance, though. Accepting cultural and religious differences could alleviate most wars.
Perhaps John Lennon’s understanding of this inspired him to write, “Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try. No Hell below us. Above us only sky. Imagine all the people, living for today. You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one. I hope someday you will join us. And the world will live as one.” Lennon’s vision may seem unobtainable, but peace and understanding remain great concepts.
Mark W. Danielson is a reality-based suspense novelist. Visit his web site at markwdanielson.com