My observance of this tenet is tempered by what I perceive at street level as a need to show deference to some of the customs from the countries of origin of the people around me I encounter.
In a post-civil rights, pro-feminist, child-of-the-sixties construct, this is, to put it mildly, the cause of a good deal of conflict and a source of social discomfort.
Virtually every body movement is a potential source of perceived insult; each interaction fraught with potential land mines. A veteran foreign service officer could have a very uncharacteristic breakdown trying to stay ahead of it all.
This morning, Los Angeles begins another yet another week of record breaking heat that has millions gasping for air like guppies that have jumped out of their fish bowl.
It has been noted how the relative youth of the population has been like tinder to the combustible political situations around the world. Right now, here in LA, as if the potential for natural disaster wasn't already omnipresent, the youth factor, coupled with the volatile mix of ethnicities, makes for a perfect storm.
Even if mother nature doesn't shirt the uneasy etat d'affairs from beneath more than it has from above, the air is thick with the unspoken worry that something could happen, at any given moment. It is as if even to acknowledge this possibility is to assure its coming to pass.
So, what does one do while walking on eggshells?
Strive to learn as much as possible about what is happening in the world. Learn how to say, "hello," "please," "excuse me," "thank you," "good morning," in as many languages as possible.
Ask questions. In so many cultures, merely showing an interest or making the attempt is sufficient enough to assuage people that you are one of the good guys. And if you've done at least this much, it's pretty much a given that you are.
l have seen Mayor Villaraigosa at the Pakistan Independence Day celebration, the Thai Town festival marking the Kings' birthday, and marching in the gay pride parade, among other places. I've often heard folks say that it is the first time they've seem the mayor of Los Angeles come. That guy gets around.