Maintaining Inner Peace in the Belly of the Beast

In the aftermath of U.S. election mania, I reflect again upon the political and cultural aspects that I don’t like about my country. These range from militarism to disregard of the poor, from a horrible foreign policy to the lack of regulation of our food products. The list is fairly long. Yes, there are good things about the U.S. too: natural beauty; plenty of nice people; good music, movies, sports and other entertainment (one just has to be selective). But for an altruistic person who cares about peace and justice– living inside the belly of the beast can be frustrating. How does one cope with being dissatisfied with their country? I’m 34, and for my entire adult life, I’ve been at odds with my country’s disregard for social justice, international law, and civilized standards of conducting international policy. One can’t just turn off completely, as one has a moral duty to speak out against the injustices perpetrated by one’s own country. As the saying goes, “Not in My Name!” So how do we deal with it and maintain our inner peace and calm? After all, peace begins with ourselves.

I live by the quote, “The world is my country and all men are my brothers.” That means my life is like a little group of embassies, a melange of places that I do like. I take what I like about the United States and mix it with what I love about other places in the world. I’ve been fortunate to have traveled extensively and to have lived abroad in beautiful Paris and the Loire Valley. So I listen to French music and watch French movies. I eat Russian food on occasion or Chinese food. I have a French flag and a Montreal, Quebec tee-shirt. As Model UN advisor last semester at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, we represented the great country of Ecuador.

If you’re feeling a bit frustrated about your country– remember that the world is a much bigger place than from New York to Los Angeles. It is ideal for everyone to reach out and expand their horizons beyond narrow national sentiments. For me, it is one part of the joie de vivre! So if you turn on Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC and can’t stand our two-faced and criminal politicians or the loud media commentators who speak in sound bites, here are eight ideas to escape from that vexation:

1) Buy a French accordion CD and go to the park with a baguette and some cheese. Get some friends to go with you and talk about metaphysics or art history or something thought-provoking.

2) Have a dinner with cuisine from another country, but have everyone dress in that country’s cultural clothing.

3) Watch a foreign movie– watch two! Watch an American movie dubbed into a foreign language you understand or are studying.

4) Start a garden with plants from other countries.

5) Teach English to foreigners and learn about their cultures

6) Watch programs like House Hunters International, Globe Trekker, and Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown to expand your horizons. Watch international news programs.

7) Every time you get some extra money, get out of the country for a respite.

8) Marry a woman from a foreign country– you may get a refreshingly different perspective every day!!

La vie est belle, profitez de chaque moment

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