My younger son, who is in the Army National Guard, gave me that young-man's "poor fool" look when I made the suggestion. Old people are weird and, well, old.
A month or so ago, a couple of positions as military security guards opened up in Afghanistan and my son volunteered. My stomach lurched when I heard this, but I tried to keep a straight face. He had signed up for the Guard; the U.S. seems bound and determined to keep various wars and the fears that attend upon them going; so ... whether I hate it or not, my son is likely to go in harm's way.
The best reaction I could come up with was this: "If you're chosen, the first thing you want to do is to learn at least 100 words in the language most frequently spoken where you will work. It could save your life; it could save the life of your buddies; and it could save the lives of people who are not involved in the much-nurtured conflict."
As it happened, my son was not selected, but my reaction stuck in my head: Just 100 words. It's no sure-fire safety net and it may accomplish nothing, but it could provide an edge. And not just in the Army National Guard.
Here we are in a "global economy," if you listen to the TED talkers. My house is increasingly closer to your house. And yet, at least here in the U.S., this small activity of learning a little of my neighbor's lingo goes begging. Besides being stupid, it's a pity. Whether in battle or at the peace table or the economic summit, who would not benefit? If you don't bother to know your enemies -- and friends too -- how could that ignorance NOT cripple your own interests?
I guess what tipped this topic into my mind was an Associated Press article about the paucity of American students studying abroad ... at the same time that foreign students are taking advantage of the education provided in the United States.
Just 100 words.