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I was very pleased by the response to last month’s column about the potential power of love to transcend nationality and ease intercultural tensions. Hopefully it struck a chord.
It became increasingly clear to me during the course of my travels in Europe last year that there are two strong and opposing trends operating in the world today. One is toward increased mistrust, division and isolationism between peoples, communities and nations; the other is toward increased social interconnection, understanding and acceptance. (Economic “globalization,” of course, is something else completely; the forces behind that are quite willing to encourage conflict when it suits their purposes, even as they seek to increase economic integration.)
Both trends are more intensely felt in Europe than here, for obvious reasons. Indeed, the first is in large part a reaction to the growth of the second, a reaction being encouraged and taken advantage of by demagogues in many countries.
The key, I think, is exposure—the more chances people have to meet and get to know one another on a personal basis, the better.
Here in America, relatively isolated as we are, we need to encourage this. So I invite you to find out about, support and participate in the various international exchange programs being run by churches, civic organizations and other nonprofits, as well as the government. These programs enable people, especially young adults, to escape from the “American bubble,” expand their experience of the world, and establish rewarding relationships. Information about these programs can be found at https://exchanges.state.gov/us and many other places around the internet.
I would also invite you to learn more about the refugee crisis and migration issues in general, not just as they affect America directly, but as they manifest around the world. You can follow organizations like the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Rescue Center (IRC) on Facebook and Twitter. Learn about Ai Wei Wei’s latest documentary “Human Flow” (which I aim to bring to our area—let me know if you would like to help make that happen).
Finally, consider actions you can take yourself. Here’s an example: Near the end of my stay in Europe, I got to know a skilled German glass-bead artist named Jasmine Schwenk. Also a trained social worker, she does a great deal of volunteering with the refugee community in the city of Krefeld, and has encountered many stories of loved ones separated by conflict, bureaucracy and financial difficulties. So she had an idea: to use her art to raise funds to help refugees and other people in such situations. She calls her campaign “Let Love Win,” and you can find out more on her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/LetLoveWinDE). She hopes to enlist other artists as well—like an American columnist and songwriter from northeastern Pennsylvania, who is contributing the following lyrics for a theme song:
Let Love Win
Now as darkness falls
In power’s highest halls
Raise a different call
To let love win
At the end of coping
Pain-filled hearts are hoping
That closed doors will open
To let love win
Let Love Win… over heartbreak
Let Love Win… over earthquake
Let Love Win… let it now remake our world
Let Love Win… over division
Let Love Win… over unreason
Let Love Win… now is the season to let love win
Let Love Win… reaching over walls
Let Love Win… past war’s siren call
Let Love Win… bring us finally all together
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone...!