This I believe in a global world where the United States doesn’t have all the answers. I believe that to be patriotic is to look beyond our borders for reflection and understanding.
I had always been the most patriotic of patriotic. I would get in heated arguments when friends from other countries complained about American rules or the laziness of American society. In my mind, the rest of the world couldn’t even compare.
Though for most of my life I had spent only traveling within our fifty states, by the time I was in my early twenties I wanted to see more of the world. I wanted to go where I was scared and where I didn’t speak the language. I wanted to go to the Middle East.
My mother made me write a will and my friends and co-workers told me they hoped to see me again. I had recurring nightmares of being held hostage by masked men.
My journey first took my to Turkey. Of the many Turks I met, some had never met an American. They were so honored I had come all this way. I chartered a boat with two Turkish boys as my sea captains. They had unofficially named themselves after American celebrities. Elvis and Michael taught me how to sail and how to be brave enough to jump from the topmast into the ocean. When the time came to leave Turkey and head to Israel I was sad. Would I feel as safe in Israel?
I landed in Tel Aviv on June 1. Little did I know that less than a month later rockets would fly overhead as Israel and Hezbollah waged war. In just a short amount of time, the streets I walked in Haifa and the breathtakingly beautiful countryside I traversed in Lebanon would be blown to pieces. For a brief moment I found peace in the Middle East. I met people who didn’t live a life constrained by rules and regulations. They parked their cars in every possible direction, they wore baby oil on the beach and put lemon in their hair. They partied until 4 am to remixed songs of Kelly Clarkson and Shakira.
I learned more than a lifetime’s worth of knowledge during my trip to the Middle East. I learned what it’s like to live in fear and what it’s like to embrace life to the fullest
Now, when I watch CNN I am extremely saddened by the tragedies that are occurring on the very soil I walked. But I am also saddened by the fact that so many Americans don’t seek opportunities to know the riches of the world. There is a reality beyond our borders and it’s an important reality to know. The United States is a great country. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but I’ve learned we have a lot of lessons to learn and it
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