cultural intelligence

Immigrating to America, Take 2 (Season 2 final episode)

World to the Wise Podcast

You may remember hearing in the news about a family from the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq, who were on their way to make a new life in the United States when they were turned away at the Cairo airport as a result of President Trump’s executive order, in February 2017, banning immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries. Fuad Sharif Suleman had been employed by the US government, through a third party contractor, as a translator and interpreter in Northern Iraq, and was traveling to the US on a perfectly legitimate Special Immigration Visa.

Thanks to the work of a number of organizations and TN congressman Jim Cooper, Fuad, his wife, and three children were finally cleared to set out once again for their final destination of Nashville, where a crowd of around 200 were waiting for them at the airport with signs and chants of “Welcome home.” My wife Becky and I were in that crowd. A couple of months later, after numerous attempts to track them down, I was able to sit down with Fuad and all but one member of his family. I know you’ll enjoy meeting them.

This is the final episode of Season 2 of this podcast. We’ve had a great time taking you to people and places near and far, and look forward to much more in Season 3.

In the meantime, in just over a week, my wife Becky and I will be leaving for the Greek island of Lesvos, where we will be leading a team from the US to work for a week in a refugee camp run by the UN and the Greek government. After that, we will be welcoming the 2017 World to the Wise cultural tour group in Rome for an unforgettable cultural feast through Italy, Paris, and Amsterdam. You can follow our experiences on the World to the Wise Facebook page (have you liked that page yet?) and here on my blog.

Post-Apartheid South Africa

World to the Wise Podcast

The Republic of South Africa has had a tumultuous history since its inception, dominated for so long by the cloud of apartheid. In 1994 Nelson Mandela, who had been imprisoned for 27 years, was elected as president of the first truly democratic South Africa. But in 2017, four years since Mandela’s death, many in South Africa feel the country has taken more than one step back, racially and economically speaking.

I sat down on Skype with Rolf Weichardt, a white Afrikaner who has spent the better part of his life working on behalf of racial justice and reconciliation. He shared very openly about his country’s steps forward as well as backward, and how he sees South Africa moving forward.

How do you see post-apartheid South Africa? Are you from there or do have experience there? As always, your comments are welcome below.

Thanks, as always, for listening.

Being Muslim in America

World to the Wise Podcast

I live in Nashville, which is in the middle of a boom. People are moving here in droves, cranes dot the skyline, and we currently bear the moniker of “It City.” In the trendy, extremely gentrified neighborhood called 12 South, among the hip restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, is a building some might consider out of place: the Islamic Center of Nashville.

This is where I met up with this week’s guest. I walked in the front door and took my shoes off, like everyone else, to the sound of prayers being chanted (in Arabic, of course), and a handful of men at the front of the carpeted main room standing with heads bowed. There was no way I was going to go unnoticed here. I sat down on a chair in the small lobby to wait for Rashed Fakhruddin, President of the Islamic Center. But before he came and ushered me into the office just off the lobby, a number of men invited me inside to where the prayer was happening. “It’s OK, please come in!”

Rashed, a mild-mannered brown-skinned man with an easy smile, arrived and we settled in for what I hope for you is an enlightening and interesting conversation on Islam, being a Muslim in America, and common misconceptions many non-Muslims have. Meet Rashed Fakhruddin.

If the end of the interview sounds a little abrupt, it’s because Rashed heard another call to prayer in the main room of the mosque and had to rush in to participate. I’m not sure whether that was because he is president, or just that as a faithful Muslim he is very committed to showing up for prayer five times a day. Whatever the case, I’m sure our paths will cross again, and I’ll likely have more questions for him. Do you have questions about Islam? Comments? Have we sent you running the other direction? Let us know by leaving a comment on this page.

And while you’re here, please consider becoming a patron so we can continue the work of fostering cultural curiosity.

Thanks for listening!

1st Anniversary Edition: the Top 7 Downloads

World to the Wise Podcast

This weekend marks the first anniversary of the launch of the World to the Wise podcast. For me personally, it’s been more fun than should be legal – to talk to so many fascinating people, hear their stories, and pass these stories on to you so we can all grow and be challenged together. Challenged to broaden our perspectives and travel vicariously to other parts of the world; or, as the case may be, to other subcultures within our own borders. To mark the occasion we’ve decided to do a roundup of the top seven downloaded episodes from this first year of our existence. We thought this would not only be a great way to celebrate, but also give you a chance to hear a synopsis of some episodes you might not have caught so you can go back and listen. It’s never too late to catch an episode because you can just click on the podcast tab on this website.

Here are the top seven most downloaded episodes from the first year of this podcast adventure:

  1. Dr. Lee Camp, professor of theology and ethics at Lipscomb University. Lee discusses his insightful and incisive book, Who is My Enemy: Questions Americans Must Ask About Islam -- and Themselves. A great interview with a thoughtful man, and a must read!
  2. Drs. Eric and Rachel McLaughlin, an internist and OBGYN, respectively, at Kibuye Hope Hospital in the impoverished East African nation of Burundi. You'll find their work and their words inspiring.
  3. From the land of New Zealand, our dear friends Neil and Jill White are given the chance to brag on their fair country, where Becky and I enjoyed an unforgettable visit a couple of years ago. You should save your money (or miles, as we did) and go -- and stay at the Whites' Air Bnb!
  4. Author, entrepreneur and adventurer Chris Guillebeau talks about his quest to visit every country on the planet. Chris shares about lessons learned in all his travels, and he also has a lot to teach us about thinking outside the box -- entrepreneurially!
  5. Author and speaker Sarah Lanier is a long-time friend and former colleague who has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share in the area of cross-cultural dynamics and communication. In this interview we discuss her book, Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures. Don't let the title intimidate you -- this is a short but powerful read, where Sarah leads us into a greater understanding of the basic cultural differences between people groups and the importance of this understanding. A must read -- in fact, it's required reading for our Global Studies students!
  6. If you haven't already, you'll fall in love with Eleni Melirrytou, of Athens, Greece. Nowhere is there a bigger heart to serve the displaced people of this world; they have come by the hundreds through the doors of her downtown Athens church, been fed by her, loved by her, changed by her. Her testimonial will stretch the corners of your heart and challenge your thinking about the worldwide refugee crisis -- and perhaps the refugees in your own city.
  7. Number seven comes from our series on American subcultures. Bill Moser was a successful architect living in an upscale suburb of Detroit when he met some people who changed the course of his life. Bill and his wife became Amish. The radical change in his belief system and, consequently, lifestyle is nothing short of fascinating, as told through his childhood friend, Jeff Smith, in the book Becoming Amish.

We could go on and talk about the next seven, and the next...but we'll let you discover those for yourself.

Thank you to those of you who have been faithful listeners over this exciting first year! We realize what a privilege it is to be "in your ears" every week!

The Last Three Feet

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The world of international affairs is often seen as a shadowy one, full of intrigue, cloak-and-dagger, and posturing. Perhaps this is not far from the truth. One thing is certain: the larger the country, the more personnel is needed to staff the countless embassies, consulates, and other outposts who represent their country. A student of my wife's and mine recently gave an excellent report on American diplomacy and enlightened us on many aspects of this complex realm. The United States, at any given time, has approximately 15,000 personnel employed by the Department of State around the world, including at its 250 embassies.

Of the 15,000 to 25,000 who go through the battery of tests and applications for foreign service positions, only about 3%-5% make it all the way through to a salaried post.

In a high tech world of instant communication, is it really necessary to have all those people scattered across the globe? Perhaps there are some superfluous positions, and there is no doubt wasteful spending here and there. But as the late Edward R. Murrow, the great broadcast journalist who later became head of the US Information Agency said,

"...the real crucial link in the international exchange is the last three feet, which is bridged by personal contact -- one person talking to another."

And so it has always been, and so it will always be.

The Many Benefits of Study Abroad

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Study abroad is not a new concept, but it's possible that it has never been more important than now. In an age of polarization, stereotypes, and circle-the-wagons mentality, there would be very few college students I would NOT advise to spend at least a semester studying abroad. In this week's podcast episode, we speak with two exchange students to get perspective from both sides of the Atlantic: first, an American student currently studying in Paris. Hannah Kersey tells us what she loves about studying and living in the City of Lights, as well as all the other perks of living in Europe, such as weekend travel.

Then we speak with French law student Lena Touchard, who spent an entire school year studying at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. She now studies law at the University of Leicester in the UK. I think you'll enjoy her reflections on her time in the States, as well as on the things she has learned about herself as a result of her study abroad experience.

If you're a student -- or know a student -- who might be interested in finding out the countless benefits of study abroad, just leave your email address below and we'll send you a list of resources to get you started.

Confessions of a Humanitarian Worker

World to the Wise Podcast

From Nashville to Los Angeles to the Amazon to Brussels to South Sudan. Such is the journey — thus far — of humanitarian worker Corrie Cron, who sat down with me to talk about her experiences in each of these places.

As Corrie herself says, she’s a straight shooter, and she gets very honest about the challenges as well as the joys of her chosen path. Because of the sensitive nature of her work in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country currently embroiled in civil war, she wasn’t able to go into much detail about the work itself; but she speaks candidly about being thrown in the deep end and the challenges of daily life in Juba, the South Sudanese capital. You’ll also hear her talk about how travel has changed her life, and finally, some advice to young people considering a career in humanitarian work.

I hope you enjoy the interview…

Interested in continued stories of crossing cultural bridges? Why not consider becoming a Patron of the World to the Wise podcast? Find out how below.

Do You Have "Ubuntu"?

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of Africa’s great leaders and known as the “conscience of South Africa,” said the following about ubuntu:

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“Ubuntu [...] speaks of the very essence of being human. [We] say [...] 'Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.' Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, 'My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.' We belong in a bundle of life. We say, 'A person is a person through other persons.'" Kind of flies in the face of individualistic American culture, that’s for sure. After hearing today's guest, I think you'll better understand why that open-source computer operating system was given that name.

Today we talk ubuntu and other things African with Dr. Lloyd Mulenga, who, along with his wife, Priscilla, practices medicine in the Zambian capital of Lusaka. Dr. Mulenga talks about the challenges facing 21st century medicine in southern Africa, as well as a couple of his observations of American culture as a frequent visitor. I hope you enjoy listening to him as much as I enjoyed speaking with him.

Facing That Foreign Language

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Sometimes there are myths that take root and become really difficult to dispel. One of them is the notion that Americans -- and English speakers in general -- are simply not capable of learning a foreign language well. Oh, we all know someone who has done it with some degree of success, but most of us have bought into the idea that "that will never be me." Perhaps I'm not the best person to dispel the myth, as I happen to be one of those foreign language freaks who thrive on tackling a new language. Maybe my wife would make a better spokesperson for the cause. She doesn't consider herself particularly gifted in languages, but when she married me, she signed up for a lifetime of exposure to any number of languages. Over the years we lived in Europe, she became conversant in both French and Dutch, and to this day we use both of these in our house on a regular basis. (Especially when grandkids are not intended to understand.)

I'm in the process of finishing up a brand new online mini-course to help people who are wanting to, about to, or have to study a foreign language. And I have new fodder: I've just undertaken Arabic, using video tutorials and weekly Skype sessions with a Syrian friend in Germany whom Becky and I met last summer when we were there.

The truth is, learning a foreign language is not a super power.

Hard work, yes. But all my years of speaking and teaching languages have given me many insights into how people learn languages -- but also some fundamental elements that are missing in a lot of language methods.

Hence this mini-course. If you're considering starting a foreign language, or have already started but find yourself a wee bit discouraged, this is for you. Just leave your email address in the form below and you'll be on your way to a more successful adventure in learning to speak another language. And believe me, there is nothing more gratifying than another person understanding you when you get up the nerve to practice your new words!

A Mexican, a Gringa and Six Children

Imagine you’re a single, white, American woman with a big heart to serve.

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Imagine you’re a single Mexican man with an equally big heart, and you’ve been designated to meet said American woman at the airport in Mexico as the two of you are destined to work together serving the poor.

This is the story of Martin and Karen Arroyo, who now, 26 years later, are the parents of six children, and have spent their lives serving the poorest of the poor — first in the metropolis of Mexico City, and more recently in the city of Juxtlahuaca, in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. We’ll hear them share from their hearts about the challenges of being a bi-cultural couple, about raising their family in some tough conditions in Mexico, and how racism is not just an American problem. And yet through it all they continue to serve, love, and inspire wherever they are. I hope you enjoy their story…

You'll hear Karen mention a book: Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans, which you'll find here:

Diary of a Syrian Refugee

World to the Wise Podcast

When my wife Becky and I were in Europe last summer, we followed the story of a number of the refugees we met in Greece, to Germany, where many of them had loved ones waiting for them. One of these was a young Syrian woman, who is engaged to a young man we befriended in Athens. We set out to visit her and arrived at the refugee center, a simple but clean apartment complex in the Berlin suburbs, and a pleasant looking man in his thirties came to greet us in the lobby. He turned out to be the young lady’s uncle, and was the only member of the family who spoke English.

We spent the next two hours visiting with both of them, and were joined about halfway through by her parents. Their hospitable and kind spirit was exactly what we had experienced in Greece in the camps. And when we left, I felt a strong connection especially with our interpreter, whom we’ll call Ali in this podcast, and had the impression that if I ever decided to get serious about learning Arabic, he would be a great teacher or mentor.

Well, it finally happened. Ali and I are now having weekly Skype conversations where he is answering all my questions that come up in my self-study. But I also asked Ali if he would be willing to let me interview him for this podcast. I had never heard his story of escape from Syria, where he would face almost certain death if he were to return now. I’d like to share with you here the unedited testimony of one Syrian who represents the hundreds of thousands who have fled their homeland in one of the greatest mass migrations of our time....

In our last Skype conversation, Ali told me he had just passed a round of German exams and is on to the next level. He hopes to eventually get a full time job, but is grateful for his part time job at the concert hall for now, as he carves out his new life in Germany.

The Happiest Nation on Earth

World to the Wise Podcast

The country of Denmark has topped the World Happiness Report every year except one since 2012. While we could debate about what kinds of definitions and metrics are used to measure something as intangible as happiness, it is nonetheless a noteworthy distinction. So what makes Danes so happy? This is one of several questions we put to this week's guest, Jens DuPont, an independent business consultant who takes great joy in helping companies learn to think more creatively. It turns out that creativity is apparently in his genes; as you'll hear, Denmark has gone to great lengths to encourage and foster creativity in just about every sphere of life.

We also talked about an important word in the Danish vocabulary: hygge (pron. hu-geh). You'll have to listen to find out what it means and why it is so important in Danish culture.

You'll hear a book mentioned: The Year of Living Danishly, which you can check out here:

I hope you enjoy meeting Jens!

The New Kurdistan: One Family's Role

World to the Wise Podcast

What would make a successful Iraqi geologist and his physicist wife pull up roots from the city they’ve grown up in, learn a new language, and become humanitarians and educators in a foreign culture — within their own country?

Today we’re speaking with Youssif Matti, an Aramaic Iraqi, who has been living and working in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq for over 25 years. He has seen the region transform into a relatively peaceful and prosperous corner of the Middle East, and the part he has played in that transformation is significant. I hope you enjoy listening to his story.

We apologize for the technical issues toward the end of the interview. Yousif was saying he believes Muslim imams, or clerics, need to do a better job of explaining to the world the difference between their orthodox beliefs and the tenets of radical Islam.

That’s just one of the many challenges Yousif and his family and team members navigate on a regular basis as they serve the Kurdish people.

You can read more about the Classical School of the Medes here. And if you'd like to find out about how you can support their important work, go here.

Friends from Faraway Places

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Welcome to the first episode of Season 2 of the World to the Wise podcast. I hope you’ve had a chance to catch up on Season 1 during our break, because we have a whole set of new and fascinating people and stories for you in Season 2.

We’re also excited to tell you about our partnership with Patreon, who makes it possible for you to become a sustaining patron of this podcast. The truth is, we believe passionately in what we’re doing here at World to the Wise, and it takes quite a number of hours to put each episode together. When you choose to partner with us, even if it’s just $10 a month, you are helping to ensure our being able to provide great content that continues to challenge, inspire, and inform. You can find us at patreon.com/worldtothewise. We won’t wear you out with pitches like this, but we do want to ask you to seriously consider becoming part of the patrons’ circle. You can read more about what that looks like on the website, which again is patreon.com/worldtothewise. Thanks so much.

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And now — imagine that you were born and raised in America’s heartland. You’re a white male, and your world is pretty much white Americans. Then your world is rocked when you start meeting and developing friendships with people from all over the world — without even leaving the shores of your own country. Meet Stuart Stokes, a film maker and vlogger, originally from the Missouri Ozarks, now living in Nashville. I hope you enjoy listening to his stories and find yourself challenged like I was.

You can find Stuart on Twitter at Skip Stokes, and on YouTube under the same name. If you’re interested in his documentary on the life of Ken Rideout, you can follow the film’s progress on Facebook at Rideout: One Last Summit or at rideoutfilm.com.

Stereotypical Stereotypes

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I was at a symposium last night on Russian-American relations moving from the Obama years into the Trump era. While most of Dr. Mark Katz's remarks and the questions asked of him centered on Trump and Putin's relationship and speculation about what that might look like moving forward, one question was asked that got me thinking about stereotypes. The question was something to the effect of, "How fair is it for Americans and other Westerners to believe that Putin's strong man persona is representative of the Russian people and culture?" The question put its finger on a common and universal tendency: to assume that everyone in a given group or culture is the same. We would of course deny that we think in such base and ignorant terms, but most of us are guilty of this at one time or another.

In the case of Vladimir Putin, we might think that most all Russians only understand the language of power and force, as Putin's MO is widely believed to be. And it is true that there are many Russians who are glad to have a leader who stands up to the West and is committed to restoring Mother Russia to her former glory.

But there are probably just as many Russians who would like a "kinder and gentler" leader who doesn't enjoy provoking the West and suppressing dissent. The few Russians I know personally are kind, caring people who have mixed feelings about their president -- like most of the world feels about its leaders. Some will point out that Putin is a vast improvement over his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.

We could think of other examples of stereotypes. Are all Germans super organized and efficient, with a hard exterior? Nope.

Are all Japanese workaholics? Nope. Not quite!

Are all Australians laid back? I don't think so, but I'm still looking for an uptight Aussie.

Aha. So here we see that there is often a kernel of truth to certain stereotypes. There is usually a reason why they were formed in the first place. The truth is that stereotypes can at times be useful, up to a point. If I were putting together an international team, I wouldn't be wrong to go to Switzerland or Germany to look for an administrative type, for example. International marketing firms will tell you that stereotypes based on studies and market research prove invaluable in their marketing strategies.

But stereotypes can just as often get us into trouble. Chances are, as soon as we allow the stereotype to take shape in our minds, one or more exceptions will present themselves.

In the current dialogue in the US about race, this is particularly dicey. It's a little too easy to assume all members of a certain race feel or behave the same way (racial profiling comes to mind). Polls and surveys and market research may help, but true understanding won't come until we sit down and listen to each other.

I'm going to have just such an opportunity on Jan 27, when I have been invited to moderate a round table discussion on the current state of race relations in the US, including in the American church. If you're in the Nashville area, we'd love for you to join us. Details here.

Season 1 Wrap-up

World to the Wise Podcast

This week we wrap up what for me has been a great ride, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. It’s been roughly 6 months and exactly 25 episodes since we launched in April, and we’ve been to a lot of parts of the world in that short time. The great thing about podcasts is you can go back and listen to ANY episode you may have missed along the way — or RElisten to something that’s been triggered by something you’ve heard or experienced lately.

In the inaugural episode I laid out the vision and purpose of this podcast: “to stretch the borders of your thinking, broaden your perspective, and equip you to engage your world.” I hope we’ve done that — from interviews with fascinating people like Dr. Ming Wang, a renowned eye surgeon and philanthropist who grew up under the oppression of the Cultural Revolution in Mao Tse Dong’s China. — to Chris Guillebeau, who recently completed a personal quest to visit every country on the planet.

I particularly enjoyed my conversation with Mike and Patricia Majett, who were very honest in describing what it’s like to live as a biracial couple in today’s American South.

We got to know a medical couple, Drs. Eric and Rachel McLaughlin, in the impoverished nation of Burundi, and were inspired by the way they have poured out their lives on behalf of the poorest of the poor, not only by treating the sick but also by training indigenous doctors to carry the torch.

We visited New Zealand, vicariously, through the eyes of Neil and Jill White, who are still waiting for you to pay them a visit in one of the most beautiful and interesting places Becky and I have ever been.

We visited Turkey, which had just been shaken up by an attempted coup and nerves were still on edge. We also heard from two moms who are raising their children to be bilingual — one is a native English speaker teaching her children Spanish, and the other Italian facing the uphill challenge of teaching her children her mother tongue in an ocean of English speakers.

And I hope you enjoyed my interview with Lee Camp, where we discussed his book, Who Is My Enemy?, as well as Servant Group international Executive Director Dave Dillard. I found these especially thought-provoking, and great preparation for my summer discovery trip to Europe. You’ll remember that my wife Becky and I spent several weeks observing and learning about the refugee crisis there that reached a boiling point in the last year to two years. I recorded podcasts from each of the countries we visited: Switzerland, Greece, Germany, and France. As much as we’ve traveled in Europe, this was probably more of an eye-opener than any other trip we’ve made, as many of the refugees took on names and faces, and true stories of suffering, bravery, desperation and heartache…and survival. As I said at the end of the trip, Becky and I didn’t come back with solutions to this complex dilemma…but we did come back impacted by the plight of these fellow human beings, many of which became our friends in a very short time.

It IS a complex situation. While I am generally in favor of any Western country taking in refugees who have lost everything to the atrocities of war (something that frankly remains the stuff of books and movies for most of us), I also recognize that there are inherent risks. I have questions about the methods of determining where to place refugees, and to what degree we should expect them to integrate into mainstream culture. I’m also aware that these decisions are largely made by people whose lives will likely never be directly impacted by the situation.

In the meantime, I believe in the adage “Think globally and act locally,” so we are becoming more familiar with the efforts in our own city to assimilate the thousands of refugees right here at home.

In August we turned a corner and began a series on subcultures within the United States. The truth is that the notion of a typical American is pretty much a myth, and we have much to learn — whether Americans or not — about the many subcultures that make up the American patchwork. Although we barely scratched the surface — so far — we met some interesting people. From the Navajo Nation and Santa Fe in the West, to the gentle Southern culture of the South Carolina Low Country, from the Amish community to the Nashville songwriters’ culture to the Indian American community, we tasted a lot of different flavors — all of them American.

You can of course find any and all of these episodes under the podcast tab on this website.

So now we’re taking a brief break, when we’ll be ramping up for more discoveries, stimulating conversations, aha moments, and places to explore on this planet.

In the meantime, I do hope you’ll still be following my blog. Becky and I are leading a group of American artists on a fall break trip to Europe, where we’ll not only see some of the finest art ever made, but meet localcreatives for some cultural exchange and sharing of perspectives , and I’ll be doing some posting from there.

Speaking of which, if you haven’t already done so, you’re invited to like the World to the Wise page on Facebook, and you can find me on Twitter and Instagram at iDavidDurham.

Be well, travel safely, stay curious and we’ll see you soon for Season 2!

What Is Patriotism?

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I'm reading David Livermore's excellent book, Cultural Intelligence, where he encourages the reader to develop his or her "CQ" (culture quotient) "to engage our multicultural world". You may have heard me refer to Livermore before, and you certainly will again. My wife and I are developing and co-teaching a brand new high school course called Global Studies, and David Livermore is an invaluable resource. I relate to Livermore in so many ways. He has obviously spent a good amount of time overseas and is passionate about understanding other cultures. He rightly points out that part of the journey to cultural intelligence is understanding one's own culture better. And as we get to know ourselves better, collectively speaking, we'll be less likely to project our own cultural values on others. (Enter Socrates' "Know thyself" on a collective level.) I also relate to Livermore's experience of at times feeling great pride in his American nationality, and at other times great shame and embarrassment.

Wisdom, of course, lies in avoiding both extremes (again!). The truth is, "there are aspects of American culture we should embrace...aspects we should protest and redeem...and many aspects that are simply different from how other cultures live, neither expressly good nor expressly bad."

So what does it mean to be patriotic? Does it mean to trumpet your country's greatness and pretend all the flaws are not there? Is it possible to be patriotic and admit at the same time that your country has a lot to learn, and even a lot to be ashamed of?

With all the talk of making America great again vs. keeping America great, so many Americans are preoccupied with the question: Is America indeed the greatest country in the world? -- as if they're afraid of losing their place in some cosmic hall of fame or being knocked off some enviable pedestal by another contender. I'm reminded of the incredibly poignant opening scene of the HBO series "The Newsroom" (sensitive ears beware), where news anchor Will McAvoy lists lots of areas where America is NOT the greatest country in the world: 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, etc. A big collective ouch -- not to mention the shock factor of this respected news anchor actually speaking his own mind.

But what if we just set aside the whole question of whether the US is the greatest -- whatever that means -- and asked instead what would make her greater? What if we spent less time on rhetoric and more time on substance? On righting wrongs that we're already aware of? On being open to be shown our blind spots and then doing something about them?

Seems to me that might be the most patriotic thing we could possibly do.

American Subcultures: the Navajo Nation

World to the Wise Podcast

Last week we began a special series on subcultures in the United States. There is so much to discover -- for Americans and non-Americans alike -- among the different people groups that make up the American patchwork, whether these are defined by geography, ethnicity, or perhaps interests and experiences.

This week we hear from Dale Tsosie, a husband, father, and grandfather from the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American reservation in the United States, covering an area of over 27,000 square miles. I was sobered by some of the things Dale shared from his heart, and I hope you learn as much from him as I did.

Join us next week for a look at another interesting American subculture, and if you have suggestions for this series, don't hesitate to email us at podcast@daviddurham.org.

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Let's Talk Turkey

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While much of the public attention in the US -- and other parts of the world, was focused this week on the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, we chose to shine a light on a completely different part of the world -- a land that from where I sit is too unknown by most of us, including yours truly.

One week ago today, there was a failed attempt to overthrow the government of President Erdogan, who was democratically elected in 2014 after serving 11 years a Prime Minister of Turkey. The aftermath has not been pretty. These events only illustrate more acutely the fact that Turkey is, in many ways, a divided country.

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But there's much more to Turkey than politics and religion, just like any country, and this week we'll explore some of the other fascinating aspects of this ancient land. Technical difficulties and a sensitive political climate in Turkey prevented us from airing the two interviews we did for this show, so I'm flying solo and attempting to adequately portray a country that has just moved up a few notches on my bucket list.

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One of those interviewees, Duke Dillard, has a travel business in the heart of Turkey, Cappadocia, and you can find his website here.

For some fascinating and little known facts about Turkey, click here.

And I highly recommend this book, mentioned in this week's podcast: