Bourdain as role model: he reveled in diversity, opened his mind, explored, taught.

Anthony BourdainI’m really saddened.  And determined.

This recent Spring, as Anthony Bourdain entered West Virginia’s McDowell County “coal country,” he imagined it to be “the heart, presumably, of God, guns, and Trump’s America.”

He then learned, as he wrote in the field notes for his Parts Unknown segment on the area,

“The stereotypes about West Virginia, it turns out, are just as cruel, ignorant, misguided, patronizing, and evil as any other.”
He goes on to make the point that if you actually go somewhere you don’t understand and perhaps hold some prejudices against the people there, but you keep an keep an open mind and actually _engage_ with them, you may be shocked to find they aren’t what you thought.  I mean, just look at the banner photo in the Field Notes I mention above.  It says everything.  Meet, listen, consider, spread the word, open minds.

He added, “Everybody in our crew felt the same.”

Reading that, I resolved to meet him. Over the years I had begun to identify with Bourdain in several ways. I am a big traveler, and even way back in my graduate school essays, when asked my favorite activities, I listed “exploring,” in all its abstract forms, as number one.  Bourdain also successfully negotiated a dramatic mid-life career shift, as am I.

But most importantly, in my mind, his West Virginia example was a metaphor for the greater point I am working on in these pages, that we need to open our minds and engage with different-thinkers before we so carelessly judge them.

Bourdain died this morning of apparent suicide, at only 61.  I did not like waking up to this news.  Part of it, of course, was sadness at the loss of a life, and that of a great and unique entertainer, an explorer, a “capturer” of imaginations, a teacher.

But the other reason was the constant, “two-by-four to the head” reminders that life, and its problems, wait for no wo/man.

I would love to have met Anthony Bourdain.  But life moves fast.  And its decisions are final.

I have got to figure out how to move faster.

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Thoughts from across the aisle...

“A family from Mexico who arrived here this morning, legally, has as much right to the American dream as the direct descendants of the founding fathers. … when the blood of the sons of immigrants and the grandsons of slaves fell on foreign fields, it was American blood. In it you could not read the ethnic particulars of the soldier who died next to you. He was an American. And when I think of how we learned this lesson, I wonder [how] we could have unlearned it.”

— Bob Dole, 11-year Senate Majority Leader (R-KS), WW2 purple heart veteran

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