Cultural Blender

Posted March 6, 2016 by Kerry McFall

I’m taking a break in San Diego with family, reveling in the sun, the sea, and no schedule.  I am so lucky.  There is time to talk and to listen, to wander and paint, and to watch people.

This part of the world is a cultural blender that is churning out polyglot human “smoothies”.  (Polyglot is a good thing, by the way – it just means speaking at least three languages!)  A trip to Balboa Park or the beach boardwalk finds us surrounded by beautiful children who casually move from English to Spanish to Asian languages in one lyrical sentence.   (A tantrum is still a trantrum in any language, however!)

The renowned San Diego Zoo is at one end of the park.  Three generations of one family, each new generation showing the racial influence of another continent, laugh at the antics of a young African deer-type animal playing with a ball, or hold their breath as a snow leopard silently sneaks on the sky bridge above them.  The bus driver began a zoo tour by pointing out the most dominant species on the planet: humans.  So many humans… (I want to learn to draw them more effectively.  Right now they are not much more than awkward stick figures.)

"Cheetah's Companion Dog", mixed media by Kerry McFall, based on photo by San Diego Zoo

“Cheetah’s Companion Dog”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, based on photo by San Diego Zoo

At one point, we saw a cheetah on a leash, walking along the path beside a golden retriever on another leash, both calmly returning the gazes of startled people fumbling for their cell phones.  The Zoo has a companion animal program where, believe it or not, dogs are trained to work with wild animals to help the wild animals understand that there is no need to panic. “It’s cool, bro, just chill…” Amazing.  Truly amazing.

The idea of the blender and its rich results makes me think about upcoming US elections… with a shudder.  Such a contrast of environments:

  • The Zoo, filled with music and laughter, and the occasional human tantrum or howl of an indignant adolescent monkey.  This is a place where families learn together, being mindful of the environment and our impact as humans,
  • The Election/Circus Sideshow, filled with cruel laughter and backbiting rhetoric, racist and ethnic slurs, desperate lies and threats, and the more and more frequent howls of indignant politicians as they  throw tantrums or descend into adolescent taunts about their own extremities… what is the lesson here for families?  Turn off the TV and the computers, for one.  Ugh.  The world is appalled, and rightfully so.

Oops, turning into a rant… sorry!