Respect. Maybe that’s what is missing these days in our country and in the world.
Everybody wants respect, but not so many have earned it or are willing to give it to those who have.
This subject came up in a conversation with a friend of mine who grew up in Mali, a landlocked country in North West Africa. My friend, Mondibo, drives a taxi in Fairfield County, CT. He takes me to New York City when I’m carrying luggage.
We’ve been doing it for a while and have gotten to know each other pretty well. Mondibo says we are the “Dream Team.” I’m cool with that.
We talk about everything on these trips. He’s very smart. He studied in Switzerland when he was young and, he knows France well. He grew up with the French language and a couple of languages native to Mali. His English is good as a result of two years of intensive study when he arrived in the US.
He has children and grandchildren in Mali and calls them daily. He sends money back to Mali regularly and expects to return permanently in a few years.
Our conversations often touch on politics and how so many things in the supposedly civilized Western World are coming apart. Not long ago he volunteered, out of the blue, “America’s hegemony in the World will end in three years.”
That took me by surprise. His directness and certainty was, like, out there. It didn’t offend me. Our custom is that all opinions are fair game if they can be supported by evidence. He met that standard, for sure.
I keep telling him that it’s time for African Countries to break through and take their place amongst the great countries of the World. He doesn’t dispute that that hasn’t happened yet, at least not in recent history. A couple of thousand years ago, might have been different, but we’re talking now.
I tell him that he has a personal responsibility to make that happen. Mondibo is probably in his late sixties, very high energy, maybe 6’3″, thin as a rail and in great shape. He never takes a day off. During the height of Covid he’d often be the only cab at the train station and some days he made next to nothing. I’d drop by and give him a care package in the form of a bottle of wine now and then. French, of course.
I tell him that he could be Mali’s Benjamin Franklin. I tell him how Franklin was forty years older than the next oldest person at our Constitutional Convention and was the most beloved, effective and indispensable person at the Convention, and in the Country, at that time.
I tell him that he should surround himself with five or six high quality younger people who were honest courageous and with a passion to make Mali better. Bring them together around an idea or concept that Mali residents feel in their gut would be an energizing force, driving the Country forward. I asked him straight out what is one thing that all people in Mali feel strongly about and would rally around. He paused for about ten seconds, then said one word, “Respect.”
I love it. What a great word and idea to build on and get better with. All dimensions of respect starting with “self respect” and the duty of the individual to always get better and thereby be more helpful to the group and nation. Can you hear the slogan “don’t tell us you love Mali show us.” Not unlike the great JFK, “Ask not what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for the Country.”
Did I tell you I was ten feet from Kennedy Election Eve 1960, as his limousine went up the back ramp of the Boston Garden? Probably a few times. OK.
If a person or the country they live in doesn’t have self-respect how can it expect to have it on the world stage? People, like countries, are always getting better or getting worse.
Or, as they used to say at the poker table, “you snooze, you lose.”
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.