INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — There’s an old saw: “Mom, I don’t want to go to school today, the kids all hate me and the teachers ignore me.”
“Honey, you have to go to school, you’re the principal.”
That’s where we find ourselves in the world today, we have projected ourselves as the principal — self-appointed principal.
Why did al-Qaida hit us on 9/11? Because we had troops in Saudi Arabia. Why did we have troops in Saudi Arabia? Good question.
Secretary of State Clinton stated in her Transfer of Remains Ceremony (I would call it “Transfer of the Honored Ceremony” were I superintending) following the murder of four State Department personnel in Libya, “There will be more difficult days ahead, but it is important that we don’t lose sight of the fundamental fact that America must keep leading the world.”
What we see as leading the world some see as ruling the world. It’s as simple as that. Hubris breeds bitterness, and bitterness in the Middle East breeds anger, which in turn, breeds violence.
Honestly, the way we behave on the world stage is akin to an NFL end zone celebration following a touchdown. We say we’re protecting, where oftentimes they see us as occupying. See Okinawa.
So where does religion fit into this world picture? Napoleon told us, “Religion is what keeps the poor people from killing the rich people.” That may be, but my personal take on religion in the 21st century is, “Religious zeal is what incites believers to murder non-believers and wrong-believers. Religious fanaticism is the biggest threat to world peace today, bigger than wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony put together. And the minds that embrace religious extremism are tougher than a two dollar steak. The mind that seizes on religious radicalism is like the jaw of an alligator snapping shut; that mind is closed, and pity the poor innocent who happens to fall victim to that mindset.
Religion in its tolerant form is the best blessing ever to befall this world. Religion in its intolerant form is the worst malignity ever to denigrate this world.
So what are we to do? Well, we can moderate religious zeal through soccer competition. We can moderate nationalism through the Olympic spirit. We can promote economic integration and moderate political extremism through cultural exchanges, music exchanges, art exchanges, and Chautauqua exchanges. Most importantly, we can make travel between countries less expensive and more convenient.
My idea is to make travel free to 18 year olds to a certain degree. They must travel to three different countries in their 18th year or be drafted into the Peace Corps. This young cross-pollination of ideas and cultures will open the eyes and hearts of the next generation and serve to diminish prejudice, racism and narrow-mindedness.
I see our 18-year-olds saving the world, call me a crank if you will, but as Mark Twain reminds us, “A man with a new idea is a crank until his idea succeeds.”
— Learn more about McAvoy Layne at www.ghostoftwain.org.