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February 14, 2007 » 1:52 am

Worldview, Diversity, and the iRAN Project

From Kellan Elliott-McCrea: Check out the iRAN Project, a Flickr collection of photos that show another side to life in Iran.    (LT5)

I’m a child of immigrants, and like all children of immigrants, I have a deep, almost biological understanding of what it’s like to live in a world with multiple worldviews. On the surface — well, perhaps just underneath the surface — I’m as American as apple pie, but my ethnic heritage has had a significant impact on who I am. Perhaps my greatest skill is my ability to reconcile different worldviews. I attribute this ability to my ethnicity, to my upbringing, and strangely enough, to growing up in this great country.    (LT6)

Mark Cuban recently said:    (LT7)

When you do something that the whole world thinks is difficult and you stand up and just be who you are and take on that difficulty factor, you’re an American hero no matter what. That’s what the American spirit’s all about, going against the grain and standing up for who you are, even if it’s not a popular position.    (LT8)

Cuban was talking about gay athletes in professional sports, but his statement resonates strongly with how I feel about this country’s values in general. America isn’t about tolerance. It’s about embracing those who are different from us, embracing them because we know that we will be all the richer for it.    (LT9)

Forget about politics for a moment, and just think about people. When we speak from ignorance, when we act on simplistic assumptions about people who are different from us, we destroy the very value that makes this country strong. I don’t even want to start a conversation about politics unless I know that those of us who are talking truly understand who we are talking about.    (LTA)

Two years ago, at the first Wikimania in Frankfurt, I spent every evening breaking bread, talking, and laughing with folks who grew up in different countries, from Europe to Asia, from Latin America to the Middle East. Having been properly primed, I spent the following week in Berlin, visiting friends and colleagues and absorbing my surroundings.    (LTB)

On my last day there, Jan Muehlig told me that c-base was celebrating its 10th anniversary that evening, and he invited me to come celebrate with them. c-base is the German center of the underground artist and hacker universe. In addition to incubating a number of extraordinary collaborative projects, they regularly throw parties and host live music in their space, which looks like the remnants of a wrecked UFO.    (LTC)

I showed up at 9pm, and I didn’t know anyone there. (Jan, like most people, didn’t show up until after midnight.) I wandered out back, where people were eating and drinking in the cold, wet air on a river bank overlooking the city. Despite my lack of familiarity with the surroundings, I felt strangely at ease. People welcomed me, this complete stranger from America who had wandered into their space.    (LTD)

I had a long conversation with a tall, skinny fellow who had grown up in East Berlin. He was a teacher and a new father, and he was about to marry his life-long sweetheart and the mother of his child. We talked about our day-to-day lives, the trials and tribulations of turning 30, and the state of the world.    (LTE)

At one point, I noted that twenty years ago, we were enemies. Now, we were sitting on a river bank in the former East Berlin, drinking beers, laughing at each other’s jokes, and sharing stories about our lives. Twenty years ago, I couldn’t even imagine ever being where I ended up that drizzly evening. Now, when I think about Germany, I can’t help but remember that night, the people I met, and the conversations I had.    (LTF)

Every time I travel, whether it’s to the Midwest or halfway across the world, I am always moved by the experience. You can’t fully replace the experience of travel, but you can evoke similar emotions and learnings in other ways. Projects like iRAN are beautiful, because they help us remember what it means to be human.    (LTG)

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