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Monday, April 18, 2005

Rafting Flashback 

So there's this article in the Washington Post about, among other things, Karen Hughes and her new job at the State Department. She's supposed to be in charge of selling the American Brand to the Muslim world. The money quote in the article is:
"The administration is convinced that if only the Muslim world understood us better they'd like us more, whereas many Muslims feel it's precisely because they understand us that they're unhappy," Carothers said.
Way back in the gogo days of the 1980s I worked for a whitewater rafting company that did trips on rivers all over the American West. For a while I was on the Rogue River crew (You really should go it's lovely and lots of fun). (To get all SAT for a moment Guides are to Fighter Pilots as Office Staff is to Ground Crew. The mission can't get flown without the ground crew, but the guy that tops off the fuel tank is just not in the same club as the guy who blasts off into the wild blue yonder.) One of the perqs to working in the office of a whitewater company is that you can go along on trips from time to time. It's fun for everyone, the guides get to make friends with the people who keep the schedule full and the office person gets to experience the company's product. The only thing the guides ask of the office guest is a bit of help in camp with the cooking, etc. One summer we had an office person who came along on a 5 day trip and it was good. Then she hung out and went on the next one, and it was OK. Then she stuck around went on the next one and it was not good. It's not that we didn't like her, but she was the houseguest that wouldn't leave. Towards the end of the 3rd trip tempers were beginning to flare and all she (a refugee from the 60s) wanted to do was talk about why we weren't getting along because somehow this would magically make us start getting along again. Sorry, but no, we're not getting along because you're acting like you're one of the guides and you're not. At the end of all the talking, we really really really understood why we didn't like each other at the moment.

Instead of trying to talk to the Muslim world about how America is actually not evil, and in fact pretty darn neat-o, how about if we try just not being evil? It's easier to convince people to believe something if that thing is actually true.


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