American ViewpointWe are all closer to one another than we think [Archives:2004/776/Opinion]

September 27 2004

By Clarke A. Green
Kennett Square, PA
For the Yemen Times

Dear Mr Haifi
This morning I am doing, no doubt, what most of your readers are doing: getting ready for a day's work. I have my cup of coffee and I am sitting here reading the news (I subscribe to several newspapers online including the Yemen Times). I am moderately politically active and aware, but not an activist nor a politician.
I read your column today and was motivated to write in response. My goal in writing is not to espouse a particular political or religious ideology, but merely to observe and reflect.
Like most of my fellow Americans I know little of the Arab world, little of Yemen in particular. We hear and see only those stories that are extreme enough to demand attention so I would have to say that amongst my colleagues and fellow citizens the Arab and Moslem world is usually depicted as threatening and strange. I dare say that the same could be said of many Yemenis when they hear or see news about America. I don't hear about the man in Yemen getting up and going to work every day, and he doesn't hear about me.
We do hear is what those in our respective governments say and we see the results of the actions they take. And it is sometimes a sad state of affairs. I have a minor role in our small local municipality and have found (at least in our system) that the job of government is tantamount to attempting to fix a watch while wearing boxing gloves. The actions of governments are rarely nuanced or subtle and our distance from the decision making processes seem almost impossible to span. I assume that this is a common frustration no matter where one lives.
When we read or hear things about each other as Nations or Religions it is necessarily simplified and cannot reflect all points of view of the individuals that make up these larger systems. The result is that most people I know have a simplistic reaction to the world beyond our borders. We tend to characterize an entire people nation, religion or region as good or bad. I cannot help but think that this happens in every corner of the world. We can also see specific examples that support our larger assumptions and inflame our passion to react. This way of thinking denies something elementally human, some greater understanding, and cuts us off from the higher aspects of our common interest as people separating us into warring camps.
Yet we get up in the morning and prepare for work: we hope to have health, freedom from want, safety for our families and some measure of happiness. I am confident that a Yemeni, and Arab, a Human being wishes nothing less and works as hard as I do to achieve these aspirations. We are all subject to misunderstanding, to greed and selfishness when just a step or two away is cooperation and mutual support. Let's all do our part to remind ourselves, our friends, and our governments of these things daily.
Good morning Yemen, we are all a lot closer to one another than we think.

Editor's Note: This was a letter sent to our Common Sense columnist. It contains some of the hopes that most people throughout the world aspire for and suggests that indeed the world can still look forward to greater understanding among people everywhere. This is an American Viewpoint worth sharing with our readers.