Time to resist callous behavior and crude language
I write in reference to Wang Yong’s commentary “We’re great people, but still only human” (February 7).
It reminded me of what the Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote a couple of centuries ago: “O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us.”
There is something about traveling in groups that seems to relax many people’s self-awareness, whether that travel is domestic or international in nature. There were several times when, back in 1967 during my first period of travel in Europe, my two young buddies and I cringed at the ways in which groups of older Americans all too often entered a restaurant or museum: chattering loudly among themselves, seemingly little aware either of those around them or of the marvelous beauty present, and on occasion even negatively comparing what they were seeing to what “was back home in America.” Ugh! The three of us would sort of shrink into ourselves, desperately hoping not to be recognized as fellow countrymen.
That said, I also believe that travel has become more difficult in many ways these days as compared to 50 years ago. The increased numbers of travelers, combined with a noticeable decline in the amenities one used to be able to expect from commercial carriers, contributes to more unanticipated delays, even cancellations. It is hard to retain one’s cool in these circumstances, especially if one is tired, hungry, and just wishing to get away from the jostling crowds.
As always, Wang’s words are gentle and uplifting, something that I deeply admire! Wang wrote: “To be sure, China has always been great, and her people, too. That some of our fellow countrymen sometimes act in an unreasonable manner shows only that no one is perfect — we are all human. So long as every one of us learns to face his or her own shortcomings squarely, we will continue to be strong as a people and strong as a nation ... In this global village of ours, mutual respect and self-restraint are a passport to peace and greatness.” This is good advice for all of us, not just citizens of China!
We must all do our best to resist the callous behavior and crude language that has become so common these days. Tourists should behave as guests wherever they go, and people in the countries they visit should welcome them with the graciousness and good will that we all have the right to expect from each other. Both sides benefit from tourism as we learn more about each other.
I remember one happy moment in Germany years ago when my buddies and I were visiting a beer haus: stout, muscular women wound around and through the scattered large wooden tables, each carrying multiple huge steins of foaming beer, their costumed skirts swirling, smiles on their reddened faces. Suddenly, a group of Germans seated near us began singing a song that, amazingly, we three also knew.
Raising our mugs of beer in a mutual salute, we joined with them. For a few glorious moments, we were all just human beings enjoying being in each others’ presence. I have carried that image with me through my life as one of the best examples of the “peaceable kingdom” we all so deeply yearn for.