Saturday, November 10, 2007

Nationalism and Violence...

Last night I had a very interesting experience. It was one which I will probably never forget and I think it might help shape a little bit of who I want to become.

I'm an RA, so when problems arise in the dorms, I have a responsibility to deal with them. Another piece of useful information is the fact that Drury University, where I'm getting my BA, is a wet campus. That means that while it's legal for people of age to drink alcohol on campus, it's also about a thousand times easier for underaged students to drink as well. Everyone in my hall is underaged, and they all tend to binge drink every weekend. (I'm wondering whether this is an American phenomenon or not. It wouldn't surprise me.)

Anyway, last night I was sleeping when I heard a man's voice yelling outside of my room at about 3am. I open the door to find one of the international students screaming at my residents, who had already shut the door and weren't coming out. This international was IRATE. He also (as well as my residents, as I found out later) reeked of alcohol as well, which I'm sure is where most of this controversy stems from.

After getting the international kid back in his hall and talking to my residents, I found out that this all stems from one of the guests that my residents had making fun of the international kid's country. All it was were two drunk guys making fun of the place where they each come from. This got the international so upset that he was willing to step outside and smash this other kid's face in. Perhaps I don't have that strong of a national identity (which makes sense. Who from my generation would be proud to call America home?), but I can't imagine a scenario where someone making fun of my country would drive me to want to physically assault them. It's absurd.

After I talked to my kids, I walked downstairs to put the incident down in the log book so we can have documentation of the whole deal, and I see the international kid sitting in the first floor lobby. Apparently he was waiting for the other kid to come back downstairs so he could finish what they'd started. He told me that if he sees this kid again, no matter whether it was the same night or any time later, he was going to beat him down. Besides the fact that this alarmed me as an RA, it alarmed me as a person.

I was reminded of my parents, sadly. When my big brother and I would be walloping each other, they'd tell us, "Violence doesn't solve anything. Why do you want to fight?" From the third person perspective that this situation gave me, I could see that they were right. Even if these two guys succeeded in knocking each other's teeth out, would it solve the question of whose country was better? No. It would just make each other hate each other's country more. Nobody would win. If, in opposed to fighting, one of them said, "Look, I'm sorry. This is stupid. I'm sorry for offending you," I bet that it would go a heck of a lot further for international relations.

What I want to remember is this:
A) I'm pretty sure that violence really DOESN'T solve anything. It just creates more problems. No one really wins in the way that they would like to.
B) Nationalism is really stupid and chauvinistic. If we are really supposed to care about each other (like every religion states), then we need to get past it.
C) Binge drinking + slander = problems.


Danielle said...

true that. i think i would feel disgusting as a person if i fought with someone. and you're right--does it really make those people feel better? or is it just for their ego?

PeterAtLarge said...

A sad story, Mark. I'm wondering whether you made the attempt to find out from your "international" what it was that he found so insulting? Perhaps there was meat, here, for some improved international understanding. Or perhaps he was just too drunk...? Cheers, PaL

Anonymous said...

Sorry this just struck me now, but I realized you were wondering if binge drinking was an American phenomenon.

...I know plenty of international students that drink like fish. I don't know for certain, but I suspect it has more to do with maturity than culture.

kourtney said...

Bing drinking happens everywhere... But aside from that, maybe it wasn't chauvinistic nationalism that was so upsetting. I'm like you-- I don't get very upset when people say things about the US. However, if I were, let's say, in France, and feeling homesick or out of place, I might be more sensitive to my French peers slamming my home.
(I do get pretty annoyed when people ask me about Dorothy and Toto while I'm up here in Nebraska!)
Happy Thanksgiving (In a few days)!