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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Vicente Fox Comes to Houston - Says "U.S. is too Isolated"

The former President of Mexico visited Houston yesterday to talk about U.S./Mexico relations, etc.

His message? "Americans are too isolated from the rest of the world." And he doesn't like the wall.

He's right actually. We are too isolated from the world. That has led to a lot of cultural blunders by our leadership that undermine even the best of intentions. For example, if you are asking a Saudi for a favor while sitting cross-legged with the sole of your shoe facing him, you are insulting him -- no matter how much you might be trying to be nice and polite. The fact that you are clueless that you are insulting your host makes it even worse in their eyes.

Chewing tobacco in front of someone in Afghanistan is the same thing. Ignorance of customs is damaging our international relationships. And it is dumb when it sabotages our own interests. The only way to avoid it is to learn about people.

The good news is that more young Americans are studying abroad, traveling, etc. The bad news is that we have countless candidates running for high office such as Congress who have zero international experience or knowledge.

Never again should we elect someone to be President who does not have global experience and cannot communicate with diverse peoples --it is too dangerous to have on-the-job training and basic cultural miscues in the White House.

It is too dangerous for Americans to elect to Congress reps who may be excellent skin doctors but don't know Burma from Burma Shave, have never been to the Middle East, or anywhere else except as a tourist?

I've been out there. Every country is different. Every culture is different. The unwritten rules will get you. It's not something you can get from a book or 'on-the-job'. Congress choices on Iraq led to a war and a lot of false assumptions proved wrong. People with global experience have a definite edge in knowing what they are talking about and protecting the public.

A Wall? I still remember the Berlin Wall - how Americans hated it because of what it symbolized. Now we are doing what the Soviet Union did.

I agree with Mr. Fox that we don't need a wall with Mexico - electronic monitoring of movement across the border makes much more sense. Monitoring is much less expensive and lets you send people where they need to go instead of investing billions constructing something so easy to climb as a wall through thousands of miles of desert.

One recommendation: President Fox should take his mission, modeled on former U.S. Presidents, and establish a foundation that builds on improving U.S./Mexico relations. After all, Mexico is not the Middle East. Due to geography, we will be next door neighbors for centuries to come.

We might as well figure out solutions to work together.

The longer version of this is at my Global American series site.

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