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Cultural Encounters

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Indeed, God is great; people are crazy.

Once I was having my morning coffee early morning enjoying sunshine (God bless your soul John Denver) in a very wintery but luckily sunny day. Somehow my memory took me back long years ago as I kept rewinding what I could remember from the good and not-so-good old days when I made stupid mistakes that could have cost me a lot. ln most of the times, God's mercy come down on me in the right time and saved me. The first words I said to my self right after these thoughts is: "God is great" in English, though it is not my native language. Following that I said to my self "but people are crazy". These words came out of my mouth spontaneously.

Then I said to myself: hey, wait a second, (God is great, people are crazy)! , this statement rings a bill!, where did I come across it? Then I remembered it is a beautiful song that I loved and listened to many times, by Billy Currington. For me, this an unintended and important further proof that people, no matter what race, religion or geography they live in, think along the same lines and have the same aspirations. Of course not all people are crazy but the reality is that people sometimes do crazy things that they regret later, like for example drink and drive causing a serious accident but luckily no one was hurt. This is People craziness and God's grace. Some people, especially non-believers, will call it good luck.

This brings me to the culturally controversial and probably explosive topic : Shared Values across different cultures, races and religions. There are common grounds for values that different cultures and nations must adhere to. Family, belief in God, rule of law, gender equality, equal opportunity, freedom of expression and aspiration for liberty, peace, prosperity and the good life. I call it explosive because of the ill-informed prejudice some cultures have against other cultures, especially western culture using its own norms to evaluate others.

I should mention another encounter I had when I was living in the US, on Halloween day 1981. The door of my apartment knocked, my wife opened the door and I heard a child voice. I joined my wife to see this lovely little girl: Trick or Treat. I look down to the lawn opposite to the apartment and see a man watching this situation unfold. Oh my God. I couldn't believe it. We, back home in Saudi Arabia, have a festivity day when a parent follows a child knocking doors for candies. Not only that but we had our own "Trick or Treat". The children say, as they knock the door, "shall we leash the small donkey or keep it going". Few years ago, following a statement by a British official in which he mentioned shared values with Saudi Arabia, a hot debate in some British news media ensued objecting to this statement. This objection was based on women rights. Not being able to drive, or travel without permission of a male guardian, segregation of the sexes in restaurants and other obstacles facing women emanating from the guardianship of women. Thanks to the new Saudi Arabia, this is all history now and women in Saudi Arabia have the same rights as other women in the west. The CEO of one of the largest Saudi Banks is a woman, the head of the Saudi stock exchange is a woman, the Saudi ambassador to the US is a woman. Living in the US for almost 4 years, followed by regular vacations in the US, I dare say, we in Saudi Arabia have more in common with the people of the US, and we share core values such as respect for family, fear of God, love for peace, strong law-enforcement, aspiration for happiness & good life, and honest straightforward business dealings.

Hamad S Alomar


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