“Imagine if time could be kind of suspended, rather than us be suspended in it.”
I grew up in a ballet studio with one special teacher. He began teaching early, although he swore he loved every minute of it, I knew an injury had ended his promising career. No one gives up their dream of becoming a principal dancer unless forced. Every year I write him a letter, but this time I wanted to share part of it with my lovely readers.
Nationality has long been considered a crucial part of one’s identity. Being a United States citizen doesn’t limit my responsibility to other countries, I am aware that the decisions I make have implications all over the world. It is easy to simply become part of an insular society, never looking beyond what affects one’s own nation, failing to realise the ripple effect of those actions, but I’m not that person. As a citizen of the world, I understand my actions have far reaching consequences. I know voting in this presidential election will decide whether climate change issues are faced head on or abandoned by future leaders; I am not a scientist so I can’t fully grasp how the melting Arctic ice will immediately affect the globe, but it will. Well meaning developing countries often lack the resources to study climate change and those responsibilities will fall to the United States and other nations within the European Union. Our collective need to address this global problem is why being a citizen of the world is important. If we become isolated from other countries, we’ll fail to see how smog in China affects more than Asia.
When I look back on previous U.S. elections, I know the lives lost in Iraq could have been prevented with different leaders…more cautious leaders, not only in Congress and Senate but foreign leaders. They should have questioned the motivations behind the Iraq Invasion before freely sending their military into the Middle East. Being a citizen of the world is understanding the Iraqis were human beings who didn’t deserve to have the entire world uprooted. Maybe if leaders had seen themselves in the faces of Iraqis, the attack wouldn’t have happened. Global citizenry seeks to void the notion of Otherness and embrace humanity as a whole. It’s a beautiful concept that should never be dismissed by any leader. The destabilization of the Middle East has affected Europe, Canada, and the United States. These are facts. Global citizens look at these refugees with compassion because we know those families fleeing war torn countries could one day be us. No country is exempt from tyranny. Citizens may choose to vote for a candidate only to realise they were misled. Americans could end up fleeing a Putin-like figure just as easily as Russians have left their homeland in pursuit of asylum.
The interconnectedness of this world has allowed us to see the impact our leaders’ decisions have around the world. One leader with unchecked power seized Crimea, but in the process his army shot down an airline carrying mostly Dutch citizens. We lost a renowned AIDS researcher, which has likely setback research. We are global citizens because the world cannot function without researchers in France, the Netherlands, and various other countries working together to cure infectious diseases. Developing countries need cohesiveness, it stabilizes infrastructure, healthcare, and education. If we lose sight of global citizenry or encourage narrow-minded views, what happens to the young men and women who may have spent their gap year volunteering with African schoolchildren or a wildlife conservancy to preserve elephants? Our interest in helping those outside our nation becomes a bit less important until we forget altogether.
What happens to art and literature? We live in a world where art and literature are boundless, why should they be limited to nationality? Filmmakers like Pedro Almodovar possess the ability to look outward instead of inward, they are influenced by writers from all over the world. Closing off the world would leave us with fewer artistic endeavors. We wouldn’t seek out cultures different from our own. Nationalism is dangerous. It devalues cultures unlike the stereotypical ideal. Would Almodovar have adapted Alice Munro’s short stories if he didn’t see the value in reading a Canadian writer? There is value in reading authors from other countries. As citizens of the world, we understand those authors’ work is important.
No one truly knows what makes us turn against one another, but I believe it is the refusal to see what makes us similar instead of different. Now we have a world leader telling citizens to focus on the differences, that citizens of the world are citizens of nowhere, but this type of rhetoric is unfortunate.
Once in a while I fall hard for an item, a show, and a book. This month I couldn’t resist sharing my newfound love for a London boutique, my enduring love for an American photographer, and one Whitney retrospective that is a must see during National Hispanic Heritage Month.
I love autumn: the Starbucks fall themed drinks, the vibrant leaves, and the new books. The best books tend to come out in the fall. This year the literary gods have blessed us and we’ll see books from Jonathan Safran Foer, Ali Smith, and Zadie Smith. I’ve been excited about these releases for months now. I’m not alone, friends from Israel to France to Rhode Island have pre-ordered Foer’s novel. So here are my Fall Must Reads:
“Falling apart, falling forever, never resuming vitality, becoming locked in perpetuity into the cell of solitary confinement, in which a sense of reality, of boundedness, is rapidly eroded: these are the consequences of separation, its bitter fruit.” — Olivia Laing
It was in the late 1990s when I discovered the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. The retrospective had ended three years earlier and I realised seeing his work would be a challenge. So I began with The Rosen Gallery, which has represented the artist since 1990. I went to the first exhibition after Gonzalez-Torres’s death in 1996. The Rosen Gallery was my first experience at NYC art gallery and it was memorable. Last month I came across an old catalogue and couldn’t help but think of the knowledgable staff who gave a teenage girl an informal tour, maybe that’s why my interest in Felix Gonzalez-Torres endures.