Is this true? It probably is – why haven’t I thought of it before? I don’t know. It was certainly much-mentioned (and worth mentioning) that Bush had hardly been anywhere outside the Texas-Connecticut-Maine circuit when he first ran for Leaderofthelastgreatsuperpower – but what about those legislators. It seems slightly incredible on the face of it, if only because we know some of them go on fact-finding missions and the like. It was a Congressional Representative who was murdered on the airport tarmac in Jonestown in 1978, the incident that set off the Kool-aid mass murder-suicide. It was on an international trip that Newt Gingrich had his notorious snit about having to sit in the back of the plane (or was it the toilet, or the baggage compartment) and therefore he wasn’t going to make nice with the horrible Democrats. Surely they do leave US soil now and then…don’t they? But maybe most of them don’t – which is an alarming thought. Does anyone know if this is true?
Perhaps we should extend the Fulbright program to Congress. Most senators and representatives have never traveled outside the United States. Most do not have passports. Those facts are unsettling, given the dominance of the United States in world affairs. If our representatives lived and studied abroad for a few months before taking office, it would expose them to the world’s complexity. It might humble us.
“About Britain,” wrote the Trinidadian critic C.L.R. James in his beautiful book Beyond a Boundary, “I was a strange compound of knowledge and ignorance.” That expresses well the apprehension, in both senses, of an intellectual transported to another land. To leave the familiar behind and enter into the foreign (not for a week or two but to live, to work) can be disorienting…A Fulbright grant, like the changing of seasons, has the appearance of being about environment or geography but is just as much about consciousness. A Fulbright is an experience of the mind. It causes one to rethink oneself and one’s country while puzzling out another.
Yes, and one recommends it to would-be legislators and – dare I say it? – presidents. Parochialism is not a political virtue.