Every four years in the U.S., we have our presidential elections. I have worked on three such campaigns and the one thing that is certain is uncertainty. Presidential campaigns are planned down to the most minute detail. In most cases, the winner will be the person who can best respond to the uncertainties of a campaign.
Last week – near the end of the present presidential contest – America was once again shaken to its core with another act of terrorism. This time, we lost four of our diplomats in a brazen attack on our embassy in Egypt. Some of the commentary that I saw on TV about this tragic attack was extremely juvenile at best and ignorant at worst. In some cases, it was both.
There were the usual knee-jerk reactions, none are in the long-term interest of our country. Slashing foreign aid, for example, is not a viable solution. Nor is becoming isolationist. Instead of isolating ourselves, we should try to catch up with the rest of the world.
Americans are the least informed and educated on issues beyond our borders. We consistently score among the lowest when it comes to world knowledge. It is embarrassing that students in other countries know more about American history than we do.
Geography? Forget it. Quick question: How many people realize that from the east coast of the U.S., you can be on the west coast of Africa, specifically Senegal, in about the same time it takes to get to Los Angeles or San Francisco?
Do Americans really understand why Muslims and other non-Americans think our government was behind the making of the idiotic movie that sparked the terrorist attacks last week?
Most of these countries have a dictatorship or some other form of autocratic government. For those living in such countries, it is inconceivable that a movie could be made without the explicit blessing of the government.
Most of these Muslim countries have no freedom of speech or freedom of the press. So, to them, the government is the press; the government is the movie producer. Does that justify their killing our embassy people? Of course, not. But, you must understand their mindset and worldview.
This is why Americans should travel abroad. We must become citizens of the world, not just the U.S. And yes, foreign aid can pave the way for democracy in the future. That is exactly what happened in Egypt. But we should not expect perfection at this early stage.
Egypt is no longer a dictatorship, but a democracy. We have more than 2,000 years on the cradle of civilization when it comes to democracy – and we still don’t have it all together. And we won’t get it together until we are eager to learn about others as they are to learn about the United States.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm.