Democracy symbolizes free and fair elections, rule of law, civil liberties, political freedom and legal equalities. Nonprofit organizations are implementing thousands of projects in the third world to promote democracy through inclusive programming for sustainable development so that people can understand how democracy works and how it is beneficial for improving governance structures – a prerequisite for enhanced efficiency and transparency in a society.
Back home in Pakistan, most people think that it is very difficult to adapt to the US culture and the society because it is very advanced and laws are very strict unlike Pakistan. Just three days after my arrival in Washington DC, I attended a session on the US Culture and History and the learned guest speaker mentioned of a possible cultural shock for immigrants especially the South Asians because of societal dissimilarities. However, I was ready for experimenting as a wise soul in Islamabad had told me just before boarding my plane that “your life is going to be much better in the U.S., the one you have been longing for. Just relax, get ready for the change and have fun.”
On the first day of my life in DC, going out with 21 other fellows from 14 different countries for a group photograph right in front of the White House, followed by Memorials’ Walk, getting caught in rain and then being stranded was exciting than any kind of shock. Being with these amazing people whom I had met for the first time, learning to pronounce their names in Korean, Spanish, French, English, Arabic, Hindi and Dari and then taking metro rail was altogether new yet thrilling.
The only thing that made this whole experience excited was the diversity as all of us come from different continents, regions, backgrounds and ethnicities, have different faiths and religions, speak different languages and think differently. Everyone’s reaction to this whole scenario was also different – something new for a wonderer like me. Roaming around the streets at night, feeling safe and secure, watching people dance, sing and enjoy the lively environment also gave me a sense of being in my early teens when I used to witness all these scenes in Pakistan but not anymore due to worsening security situation and terrorist attacks.
My first day in DC makes me agree with Greek Philosopher Epictetus’ quote that “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Out of joy, I responded to this whole scenario the way it should have been which is embracing diversity and welcoming it whole heartedly.
Being in a truly democratic, free and open society also gave me an opportunity to assess whether Pakistan is ready for an inclusive society where everyone is treated equally and everyone’s civil rights are protected by people in addition to the laws. It is premature to reach any conclusion, not because it is impossible, but because first I need to know how the U.S. managed to do that. This is what I am expecting to learn during my stay here – transforming diversity into inclusiveness and strength – one is the most challenging tasks Pakistan facing today.