Seeking to Understand
Several students and work colleagues asked me about my recent trips to Paris and London. I’ll share with you what I have been sharing with them: As is often the case, my main focus during my recent travels was on trying to find “balance”…..trying to listen to as many perspectives as possible — “to seek to understand before I am understood”.
Since I was in France a week after the horrible tragedy in Nice, it was clear that many people were understandably upset and scared. As one person stated, “Harry, if one crazy person can murder nearly 100 innocent people, including children, with a truck……what will be next?” Several people called for stopping all immigration and investigating all Muslims as possible terrorists. By really listening and trying to understand their perspectives, I was able to understand what they believed and why. However, as usual, it is critical to understand ALL perspectives. I had that opportunity one morning while renting a car to take Julie and Daniel for a ride to visit the chateaus along the Loire River. The manager of the rental car agency was a wonderful young man who saw me reading the Financial Times and wanted to hear my perspective on the recent events in France. I respectfully suggested that since he was living in Paris, I would love to hear his perspective first. Wow! Did I hear another point of view! He told me that he was French but that he was scared to live in France and was wondering if he should leave. He explained that his mother was French and his father was from Tunisia, and his family was Muslim. He told me that everywhere he went he was looked at suspiciously and constantly being asked to show identification. He stated that he was horrified at what happened in Nice and told me that no true Muslim would do what the killer in Nice did. He reminded me that among the 84 killed in the Nice attack, 30 were Muslims. So there is the challenge…..how to minimize the chance of future acts of terrorism AND respect the rights of citizens regardless of their religious beliefs, race, or culture?
Okay, one more example of the need for a “balanced perspective”…..I arrived in London shortly after “Brexit” (a truly amazing time to be in London). Much of what I had read previously in the media focused on two views: 1) that the UK wanted to separate from the European Union because they saw little economic benefit from the union, or 2) that the “average Briton” did not really understand the purpose of the European Union. In London I heard a very different story from the local shopkeepers and taxi drivers (my usual source of basic views and perspectives). I found the people I spoke with very informed and reasonable. It appeared to me that they did understand that in a world becoming more and more global, there was a need for Europe to operate as more of a “union” to compete economically with the U.S., China, and Japan. However, and it is a big HOWEVER, they really were struggling with “how can we continue as a democracy when decisions are being made in Brussels by bureaucrats who are not elected and who the U.K. has little influence over?” The fact that the EU was “dictating” how many immigrants should be accepted into the U.K. was hard for them to accept…I must admit that it sounded somewhat logical.
It reminded me again of the quote I mentioned in my last blog post……”life is much simpler when you only understand one side of the story”.
The folks in the U.K. also asked me for my view of the U.S. presidential election…hmmmm, I think I will save that discussion for my next blog post 😉
I am always interested in your views and perspectives.