Beyond local and state concerns, two schools of thought appear to be vying for dominance on the world stage these days. On one hand, alliances such as the European Union and NATO draw multiple countries together in agreements that promote cooperation and protect mutual interests.
On the other, the United Kingdom is withdrawing from the EU to escape its strictures. Many EU countries host strong nationalist parties who advocate flaunting EU rules on open borders to protect their native culture and economy from the intrusion of refugees. The United States is pursuing environmental, immigration, nuclear weapon and trade policies that cut ties with other countries in favor of putting “America First”.
No doubt, the idea of globalism can feel uncomfortable if not downright threatening. Most of us learn our cultural values and traditions at our parents’ knees and integrate them into who we are, our self-identity. To many, globalism implies homogenization, a one-world philosophy that if adopted would dilute the American way of life—and a part of who they are. Little wonder that unfamiliar language and lore, a world full of people of different religious, economic and political backgrounds can provoke anxiety. At the very least, there’s a need for the “trust but verify” method of cooperating with foreign entities.
No country/culture wants to lose its sense of identity. But failing to recognize the world-wide interconnection of common ecological, health and scientific challenges is dangerous to everyone. This isn’t a zero-sum choice: in the best-case scenario, the world will find ways to ensure collaborative strength doesn’t overpower the unique character and sovereignty of each global partner.
The strongest rationale for multi-national alliances is the fact that some of the greatest threats to humankind are global in scale. An issue such as melting ice caps causing sea-level rise affects coastlines everywhere. The massive islands of plastic waste that are killing or pushing out marine life are accumulations of discards from all over the world. And now jet travel ensures the rapid spread of infectious disease from one country to others, raising the specter of global epidemics.
One group that has little trouble collaborating across borders are scientists, who frequently reach out to colleagues in their line of research to share information and collaborate. Unheard of during the “space race,” American astronauts now reach the International Space Station launched by Russian rockets and share the Station with Russian cosmonauts. The enormous Hadron Collider located in Europe is utilized by physicists from around the world. Outbreaks of deadly diseases demand and are met with close cooperation of health science experts in almost every country.
Anti-globalists can take comfort in the existence of areas in the U.S. like Texas, Appalachia, New England and the South in general, that maintain their own flavor and style, while still being part of the larger American culture. Food, accents, slang or vernacular, music, architecture and traditional ways of dressing can all differ significantly but still be recognized as acceptable under the broad umbrella of America.
Recognizing that the U.S. is part of one world isn’t an abdication of loyalty or patriotism. It’s the foundation for recognizing growing threats regardless of initial geographic center, anticipating inevitable negative outcomes for our corner of the world, and partnering with the international community to overcome our common challenges.
Alexandra Piacenza is a 10-year resident of Prescott, retired from a career in technical writing and strategic planning. Your comments are welcome at email@example.com.