When originally built, the city was designed in the shape of a circle, with entrances strategically located for purposes of maximum defensibility. Like spikes, roads stuck out from Rome’s circular highway and all roads led back to this main circle, thus the phrase – All roads lead to Rome.
It was as though the Romans understood the world’s population would eventually centralize into one civilization. Two thousand years later, we are still on that path.
I am sitting in a café sipping a cappuccino listening to a Polish woman translate a conversation between an Englishman and an Italian, as her Japanese and Korean bosses await her explanation. Outside the Vatican, the world’s citizens queue for a stroll through St, Peter’s Basilica and a glance at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Chopped Asian accents and Eastern European “est’s” merge with South American “o’s and a’s” as if several radio stations were playing at once. From slender arms, jeweled African women dangle Gucci purses and an overweight Cambodian businessman doffs a Yankees cap while his French wife displays a red dragon tattoo above her sacral vertebrae – tramp-stamped vamp.
Call it what you will – enhanced transportation, the Internet, Twitter – but the Earth is significantly flatter these days and through Facebook connections, six degrees of separation is now testable. America’s melting-pot mentality is global, and humanity, through interaction with other cultures and a progressive mindset, is becoming more empathetic toward their fellow world-citizens. Surely, unity of mankind cannot be far off.
But what is the cost here? Do ideas of nationalism and transcendent idealism disappear? As we teeter on the precipice of a homogenized world, where do nations like America stand? I can only report form experience so:
Over the past twenty years, I’ve found myself in thousands of conversations with people of different nations. At player parties and sporting events, in cafes and conferences, amidst tourist attractions and inside host homes, the message is always the same. They wish America would be more socialist. They wish we would open our borders to easier entry. They wish America would veer from imperialistic tendencies and apply the fruits of its labors in more humanitarian ways. They wish we would lose our ethnocentric view of the world and understand the concept of “one world.”
But then, too, we are the first ones to applaud at others’ sporting achievements. We are always the dinner table at which people come to take photos and converse. We are the people other countries’ citizens watch and copy and admire. We are the culture recognized by our initial smiles and openness. We are the nation representing freedom and opportunity and possibility and “coolness.”
Regardless of their verbalized contempt for our systems, international folks respect and admire our ideals and want to spend time in our country. In spite of the media’s attempts to criticize our ways, America’s shining beacon remains bright – which brings me back to Rome.
I am still here, wandering around ruined remains of civilization’s foundation. The burned out torches and crumbling stadiums betray the fall of a once-mighty empire. As I pace the cobblestone streets and eavesdrop upon the economic woes of a city struggling to regain its international identity, I feel a sense of patriotism for America. Yes, we are hurting. Yes, we sense threats from outside forces. But, like the Romans, we’ll draw the circle around Lady Liberty and defend ourselves. Because, though all roads lead to Rome, all hearts lead to America.