Americans should find out more about other cultures

Larry Rogers

Larry Rogers

It was my luck in the 1960s to be stationed in an Army unit in Korea that was located midway between a decent library and a movie theater.

I got to read a lot of miscellaneous stuff in that library on the Yongsan Compound. I discovered Raymond Chandler and began what became my dissertation. It was probably as good an education in some ways as my undergraduate schooling, good as that had been.

One of the things I read was a collection of poems about World War II, including a poem, one whose title and author I don’t remember, that had a stunning line in it about young men bombing cities in Europe that they had studied about in school just a short time earlier.

But what did we know about Afghanistan prior to last year? We had to play catch-up, did we not?

It wasn’t that we didn’t have some resources. Even the Brookings Register published a map of Afghanistan very early in our efforts against the Taliban, though such an effort was soon surpassed by maps in USA Today and Newsweek. In addition, there is an Afghan study program only four hours away at UNO, too.

I wonder what would happen if we faced a test on that knowledge, such as it was?

At the theater, I saw a movie starring Charles Bronson as an American adventurer in Iran in the early 1920s. Shown the ruins of the great Persian past by an Iranian, Bronson said, “What have you done lately?”

That is a quintessentially American line ? partly based on bravado, partly on cultural superiority and partly on ignorance.

So what ties Charles Bronson films and World War II poetry together?

As Americans, we should learn about the world in ways that are not reactive or we will continue to learn about various parts of the world after the next bombing campaign.

Larry Rogers is an associate professor of education. Write himat [email protected].