The American Way
Many years ago, I used to think of myself as a liberal Christian. Probably I was naive or just misunderstood the term “liberal” back then. I was told that being a “liberal” means, that you understand that others may see the same thing in a different way and it is not wrong for them to have a different opinion from the same set of facts that you have. That you understand that each of us are different in the way we perceive things and that is what makes us unique. I was initially confused that why I have to be a “liberal” Christian for that – I mean, should not that be the Christian way of living? Then I was told how “conservative” Christians try to make you fall in line with their own way of thinking.
During the same time, I made an American friend, who was a registered Republican, but he called himself a “liberal” Republican. I know that many will not agree that these two words – liberal and Republican, do not go together. But for me, he was a good friend and we used to talk about all kind of things. He even voted for the democratic candidates in two presidential elections. And he would explain patiently his reasons for doing so. It was amazing to have such a friend. Then the invasion of Iraq, under the command of President George W. Bush started.
From the beginning, I was against the war on Iraq, while my friend supported it, like most of the Americans at that time. So, we kept arguing about this all the time. When I say arguing, it was a pleasant banter, pulling our legs and laughing together at the absurdity of each one’s argument. Then one day, he got fed up with the “little Indian” always talking against the war. (Today, I know, if someone calls me a “little Indian”, it would be politically incorrect and most probably construed as a racist comment; hey, but for me, it was a friend pulling my leg and that is all. I am not a big fan of being politically correct. That comment did not hurt me, did not demean me, so I am okay with that.) So, my friend invited me to go for lunch with him and we both would present our case point by point and come to a final conclusion.
He went first and for nearly 45 minutes, explained his reasons why he believed that the war in Iraq was justified. And at the end of 45 minutes, he said, “This is it. The case is closed. No more talking on this subject. To invade Iraq is the right decision. No more listening to you.” I burst out laughing, for I know that he did not say that because he was arrogant or he was so sure of himself. I realized that he did not want to listen to me, only because he was afraid in his heart, that I may be right and that his beloved country may have taken a wrong step and he did not want to face that. I respected that and I never talked with him about the war after that. Of course, I kept pulling his leg for being afraid of the “little Indian” being right.
Then few months later, he told me that his father was in town and he was inviting some of his close friends for a lunch with his father, and I was also invited. I accepted the invitation and went to meet his father. An elderly man, who loved to smoke without a break and a hard-core Republican, was he. After the food, we were talking about various topics and it was getting late for me. As I was about to leave, the topic changed to the war on Iraq. My friend told his father that I was against the war, and hence to tread on the topic lightly not to hurt my feelings. His father was surprised and asked his son to explain the reasons why I was against the war. When my friend told that he does not know the exact reasons, his father was more surprised. He turned to me and asked, “You are against the war and yet, you have never told your friend the reasons behind that?” I smiled and told him how his son ended the conversation after his own monologue. His father went quiet for sometime. Then he said few things that impressed me.
First, he turned to his son and told him, “I am appalled that you did this. That is not the American way. You always listen to others, even if you don’t agree with them 100%.” Then he turned to me and said, “I apologize for my son’s behaviour. I hope you don’t think we Americans are all like that. Yes, we have a myopic way of seeing things. Still, the American way is to listen to what others have to say. Even if I am not going to agree with any of the things that you have to tell, I have to listen because we know that the world does not see us the way we see the world. Once again, I am sorry for my son’s behaviour.”
Of course, many people may not agree with this; and some may have had other bitter experiences. But for me, this experience is something I cherish. For me, it has become the American way. So, it is sort of hard for me to understand that the American way is slowly dying and it is dying because of the so-called “liberals” who think only they are correct and everyone else is ignorant or idiots or racist. Hopefully, the American way I know of, will come alive. May God bless America during these festival days.