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Last week, I thought about the benefits of digging deep into another culture. Sim reflected on The Crown, a mini-series about Queen Elizabeth, along with her parents’ memories. Mike observed Remembrance Sunday (analogous to our Veteran’s Day) with photos and memories from the 100th anniversary in 2014. Becky reviewed the children’s book Half Magic and, like Sim, really liked The Crown.
I wish I could find the quote, but I recently read a British reporter working in the US say something like the US thinks of itself as multicultural but is quite segregated while the British think of themselves as much more homogeneous than they really are. Naturally, when your reality and your perception are at odds, there are problems, but they are different problems. And, there are solutions that come with awareness.
I can reflect on that from personal experience. I live in one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the US (St. Louis, which includes the city of Ferguson). I visited Birmingham, England for a week on my 2014 trip, the most cosmopolitan place I’ve ever been. That includes London and New York and Paris — those cities might have a greater diversity, but it’s not visibly present on the streets where tourists frequent.
When we told people in England at the beginning of our trip that we planned to visit Birmingham (affectionately known as “Brum”), they said, “Why?” I started to get a little worried about the plan! But, it turned out that we loved it. It’s a great home base for day trips by train and a wonderful place for people-watching.
Our hotel was at the intersection of two broad pedestrian boulevards, High Street and New Street. We watched the world go by from our room and when we were out and about. By the world, I mean representatives from every far-flung corner of the British Empire, in all their glorious skin tones and facial features. Often, they were wearing the customary dress of their ancestral homes.
During our time there, we were entertained by music and by street preachers, both Muslim and Christian. The most memorable street preacher explained in graphic detail (to our prudish American ears) to the young males in his audience exactly why their sex lives would improve with marriage, much preferable to the sleeping around that he imagined they experienced.