Back in the late-80’s, just as the cold war was coming to an end, my Rotary Club participated in a program called “Soviets Meet Middle America,” sponsored by the Center for US-USSR Initiatives and the Soviet Peace Committee. The mission of the program was to bring American and Soviet citizens together “around the kitchen table” to discover that they weren’t enemies. The belief was that if we got to know one another as real human beings, we would be less inclined to want to kill one another. Various members of our club welcomed eight Soviet citizens into their personal homes. They came from all walks of life: teachers, engineers, students, and even one man who I am still convinced was KGB. It was a remarkable two weeks of tours and getting to know one another that will forever remain etched in my memory. This event may well have planted the initial seed of my liberal, love-of-all-mankind mentality that to this day suffuses my psyche. Unfortunately, Soviets Meet Middle America lasted only two years.
Today, however, I learned about Pangea Day, an event that was held this past May 10th and is described on their website as follows: “In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that to help people see themselves in others through the power of film.” The event featured 24 short films that were selected from an international competition that generated more than 2,500 submissions from over one hundred countries. The films were chosen based on their ability to inspire, transform, and allow us see the world through another person’s eyes. So far I have only watched half of the films. “Elevator Music” made me laugh. Its lesson: there is always a way to resolve our differences. Two others made me cry. “Moving Windmills” is a touching story of a 14 year old boy who has made a remarkable difference in the quality of life of his village, all because he saw a picture of a windmill in a library book. The third, “Combatants For Peace” describes the events that led combatants from Israel and Palestine to abandon their arms in favor of conversation. Once again, getting to know one another is proving to be a powerful force for peace.
I hope you will take the time to watch these three short, exceptional videos. If you are intrigued, as I was, you can watch the rest of the films at the Pangea Day website. Enjoy!