Letter from the Editor
As I write this the war rages on in Ukraine with more bad news reported every day. I hope that a resolution is in the near future. Being a typical American who values doing and action, my feeling of utter helplessness for fixing the problem haunts my thoughts. I agree with Janet Yellen who said that Russia’s invasion “including the atrocities committed against innocent Ukrainians in Bucha, are reprehensible, represent an unacceptable affront to the rules-based global order, and will have enormous economic repercussions for the world.” It is a reminder of the complex, global intertwining that all countries now experience and the importance of our work to improve intercultural relations.
It also reminds me that whatever the United States or NATO or the UN tries to do, there will be repercussions that will be felt long after I’m gone. In a recent conversation with Zareen Karani Araoz, she said that her lifelong goal has been to bring about better intercultural relations and world peace. My response was that my goal has been that if I could open at least one person’s eyes to perspectives they had not considered and changed their behavior and beliefs in a way that made the world a better place, I would have achieved my goal. It seems I have a ripple in the pool approach to my chosen profession.
My Spring Cleaning includes finally sorting through several boxes of stuff that I inherited from my father many, many years ago. I came across a small booklet titled Tact written in 1933 by J. Clinton Ransom (Wells Publishing Company). It was written for businessmen in management (not women who are not mentioned anywhere in the book as anything other than customers or salesladies). It made me think of a less than tactful moment recently when I wish I had said something differently. Haven’t we all at one time written an untactful message which we wish we had not sent? The thing that caught my eye in the oddly stilted writing of almost 90 years ago was the old fable of the sun and the wind. “It is prettily noted of a contention between the Winde and the Sunne, who should have the victory. A Gentleman walking abroad, the Winde thought to blow off his cloak, which with great blasts and blustering striving to unloose it, made it to stick faster to his back, for the more the Winde increased the closer his cloak clapt to his body: then the Sunne, shining its hot beams, began to warm this gentleman, who waxing somewhat faint in this fair weather, did not only put off his cloak but his coat, which the Winde perceiving, yielded the conquest to the Sunne (p. 15).”
The author’s conclusion was to always remember that men are more easily led than driven, and that in any case it is much better to guide than to coerce. That works for both men and women and certainly for me. How many times in my life do I need to learn that lesson? The only words my father underlined were: “You must not receive everything that is said as a critic or a judge, but suspend your judgment, and try to enter into the feelings of the speaker (p. 20).” Isn’t this what we strive to do in any intercultural exchange?
Could tact have worked on the Russian leaders? Diplomacy was given a chance to no avail. It is easy to see that the promise of sanctions did not work. What might have been a more tactful approach that could have guided Russia to a different perspective on Ukraine? It seems that Putin saw only coercion and threats. If Zelensky’s offer of neutrality had been made sooner, might that have avoided the destruction of his country? We will never know what could have made a difference, but maybe more tact would have helped.
Sandra M. Fowler
Editor, The Interculturalist: A Periodical of SIETAR USA