Warning: This post contains a culturally ignorant comment. The comment has abusive language, so be forewarned.
“It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” ~ Mark Twain
One of my first posts on my blog was, “You Know You’re a Gringa When…” It contained a list of comical things I encountered when I was living on Ometepe Island six years ago. My blog was less than a week old. The digital ink was probably still wet and I was lucky to have two hits a day.
So, when I opened the administrator’s page and noticed a comment from a reader, I was thrilled. It was my first comment waiting patiently for me to approve.
Comment: author: Bingo
Blow me … you know your an asshole when you write a list like this … sorry gringos dont live in squalor and enjoy the finer things in life like warm water, trash removal, and proper sewage systems … FUCK YOU
I stared at the comment, unable to understand what caused Bingo to write such a hateful response to a total stranger. After my initial shock, I composed an email to Bingo questioning his anger and sincerely wanting to know what set him off about my post. But, Bingo’s email address: firstname.lastname@example.org was a fake.
The IP address of the computer, from which Bingo’s comment was sent, was below the fake email. Clicking on the IP address took me to Roadrunner’s Corporate Headquarters. I discovered that Bingo worked as a clerk in a Roadrunner store in W. Virginia.The IP identified the exact Roadrunner store. By this time, my compassion for culturally ignorant people had disappeared, so I sent a copy of Bingo’s comment to the Roadrunner Headquarters along with a note that said, ” You may want to have a little chat with Bingo. Maybe cultural diversity and tolerance seminars should be included in training sessions for your employees, along with the appropriate use of work computers. Thank you for your consideration.”
I encounter cultural ignorance again and again, but not from everyone. When meeting new people or replying to articles, usually from Yahoo, I now very quickly divide them into one of two groups. One is the type of person that makes these kind of wild comments: “I am an American, love it or leave it.” (I am tempted to respond, “I live in America, too. Nicaragua is in Central America.”) or “Isn’t there a war going on there?” (For which I reply, ” Buddy, you are about 20 years behind the times.”) or “You should be ashamed of yourself! Your pension should be denied because you are not living in the United States.” ( I wonder, “Why should I be ashamed? I paid my dues in the USA by teaching your culturally ignorant children for 25 years. I tried my best to instill cultural compassion in your children, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”)
These are not the “mouth shut” kind of people. Their ignorance of foreign cultures and insensitive statements spreads hatred throughout the world like a Swine flu epidemic.( which, by the way, we are experiencing in Nicaragua.) I’m not saying cultural ignorance is a bad thing. Even with the internet, where we can reach out to the world and describe our daily lives in a foreign culture, there is way too much diversity for any one person to grasp even the basic knowledge of every culture in the world. That’s why I write my blog. That’s why you respond with questions about our lives in Nicaragua.
I believe that it is impossible to fully understand a foreign culture without being immersed in it for a couple of years. I’ve been in Nicaragua for eight years and I still don’t fully understand the culture. So, I guess we are all doomed to be culturally ignorant. At best, we must make an attempt to explore cultural diversity with eyes without borders. We must cultivate an attitude of tolerance and accept the fact that we don’t know everything…our knowledge is limited.That attitude comprises the people in the other group…all of my compassionate, curious, and tolerant followers of my blog. Thank you for being a part of my life.
I can accept cultural ignorance. What I can’t accept is intolerance, stereotypes, bigotry, extreme nationalism, and hatred. Back to Bingo’s comment… why the hatred? Is it deep-seated jealousy? Is it fear? Is it an attitude of extreme nationalism that has crippled the great United States of America? Quien sabe?
It depresses me to think that the people of the world will never fully understand one another. It may not matter to most people, but it matters to me. That’s why I write…that’s how I live…everyday trying to understand a bit more. My friend, Bill ( We moved to Nicaragua because he needed someone to manage his youth hostel on Ometepe Island.) used to tell me, “We’re all here because we’re not all there. You will know you have arrived when you don’t perceive litter as a bad thing.” I guess I’m getting closer to ‘being there’ because I can overlook most of the litter. When it gets intolerable, then I take my plastic bag to the beach and pick it up. I don’t know if I will ever fully ‘arrive’. That’s a universal question, one that I don’t have time to think about now. There’s still too much litter in the world.