Why the world matters

By Observer editorial July 10, 2013 11:01 am
From afar, the current instability that remains the hallmark of modern-day Egypt often appears to be totally unrelated to anything connected to Oregon, or, to say the least, Eastern Oregon.

Egypt is the land of those interesting wonders called the pyramids and the Pharaohs, but, beyond that, little about the nation resonates with hometown, main street America. In fact, the routine expression of upheavals on such foreign shores as Egypt could be, and often is: Who cares?

How, one could ask, could something in a strange, foreign nation like Egypt have any connection, any relevance, to life in the heartland?

It is a good query, and one locked firmly in the traditional American mindset of isolationism and says a lot about our insular focus and ambition.

The only drawback to that line of thinking is that it doesn’t fit with reality.

How can a conflict in a faraway nation make an impact on hometown America? Well, take the now-nearly concluded global war on terror. In early 2001, Iraq seemed as far away from La Grande as Egypt appears now. Fast-forward two years later and Eastern Oregon’s National Guard unit was on its way for its first of two combat tours in that nation.

The members of the Guard unit were not faceless individuals from some other state or from an active duty military post. They were friends and neighbors and co-workers and brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers.

And suddenly Iraq — with all of its complicated politics and problems — was no longer someone else’s problem. It was America’s. And Eastern Oregon’s problem.

We tend to dismiss foreign issues because they aren’t “local.” Or it has no relevance. The sad truth is that, like it or not, America is a world power. Which means, like it or not, blowups in some strange, foreign land often have a nasty way of coming home to roost.

Even right here in Eastern Oregon.

The world is no longer a disconnected place. It is a global community. Just ask a local farmer. Goods and crops harvested here go all over the world.

While foreign news and distant conflicts should certainly not be our focus, as Americans we should keep an eye on them. Because sometimes those foreign problems become our problems. Almost overnight.