Celebrating Petra and learning from the Nabateans during the US presidential campaign

ImageSaturday, August 25th was the deadliest day of fighting in Syria as over 300 deaths were reported. Yet the news cycle in the United States focused on the latest slander and pettiness from the US presidential election. Most all of the Sunday morning talk shows focused solely on the upcoming Presidential election – how hurricane Issac will impact the Republic Convention, whether Mitt Romney’s comment on his birth certificate (and subtle jab on Obama’s birth certificate allegations) were appropriate and what the latest polls indicated.

I wonder how many coffee table discussions and family debates centered on the latest US presidential election vs the atrocities in Syria? Did our schools’ current events sessions at all address events happening outside of the Presidential election? Democracy should indeed be celebrated. In one way, Americans should be analyzing the candidates and contemplating who is best positioned to lead the country. Many Syrians are literally – and tragically – dying for this right.

But at the same time, I believe that the pettiness, name-calling and over-analysis that comes with US politics brings out the myopic thinking and polarization of American politics and society. Regardless which candidate wins in November, I believe that Americans – both civil society and government leaders – need to get past the bickering and demonstrate the ability to work with those from different countries, political parties and ideologies to find solutions to global and complex problems.

This week, Republicans will gather for their convention. Next week it is the Democrats’ turn.  There will surely be lots of name-calling, rehearsed zingers, overused soundbytes and wild applause at both spectacles. At the same time, the country of Jordan will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the discovery of an ancient civilization.

200 years ago a Swiss explorer named Johan Ludwig Burckhardt discovered one of the most amazing cities known to mankind – Petra in the southern part of Jordan. Those who have been fortunate enough to visit the city or caught a glimpse of it in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade understand very well the reason for such a celebration. My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting this astonishing ancient civilization and its numerous tombs and rock formations in December 2010. The city’s most famous image is the Khazneh, translated into English as The Treasury. Truly it is difficult to put into words the splendor of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Particularly noteworthy about Petra is the lesson the city can serve today in our polarized world. Our Petra tour pamphlet noted that the Nabateans founded the city some 2200 years ago. Prior to coming to what is now Jordan, the Nabateans lived in northwestern Arabia and were influenced by major foreign cultures. They became undisputed masters of the region’s trade routes, levying tools, protecting caravans laden with Arabian frankincense and myrrh, Indian spices and silks, and African ivory and animal hides. The brochure stated: “The Nabateans were clever and practical people, they never believed in national exclusiveness, were open to outside cultural influences, absorbed them and then added to them their own native touch so that the final outcome of this interaction was a wonderful melting pot.” Seeing this in person, one can really see all these influences come together to form something truly majestic.

The Nabateans certainly weren’t influenced by their own cultural pre-suppositions and stereotypes. Had they been, such a splendor that is attracting thousands of tourists a day some 22 centuries later would have never been constructed. The Nabateans created a world wonder thanks in part to the fact that they were immersed and learning from other cultures and thoughts.

Those taking part in the political conventions as well as journalists, teachers, parents, communicators, business leaders and anyone else committed to making the world a better place can also heed the lessons from the Nabateans. In the midst of the busy US presidential campaign, it would be time well spent to reflect on how the Nabateans created such a city that has made a lasting impact for generations. Perhaps we will never be tasked with literally building a city. But by working with those from outside of our comfort zones, we too have the potential to create impact that can be felt by future generations.


About Kevin Anselmo

Kevin Anselmo is the Founder and Principal of Experiential Communications, a consultancy focused on education. He helps brands within academia - whether individual or corporate - communicate with stakeholders. He also teaches communications and public relations workshops to different individuals and groups and just launched an online media training program for academics. Previously, Kevin was Director of Public Relations for Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and prior to that managed the media relations for IMD Business School in Switzerland. In addition, he was an adjunct communications professor at Nyack College in New York. Currently based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Kevin lived and worked in Switzerland for eight years and in Germany for two years. He has led public relations initiatives in various countries around the world.
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18 Responses to Celebrating Petra and learning from the Nabateans during the US presidential campaign

  1. Jaraad says:

    Reblogged this on .

  2. S.C. says:

    I feel the same way. The bickering between the parties is counterproductive, and it’s especially offensive given the circumstances everyone is going through right now. Syria is still mired in chaos, even worse than before, yet I haven’t heard any mention of it in our mainstream media, who prefer to focus on meaningless platform speeches and politicking.

    Maybe we were like the Nabateans sometime in our past, when we had the will and the drive to succeed as a young republic in a largely hostile world. It seems like our leadership has lost those qualities entirely.

  3. rizalID says:

    read your post, sob.

  4. Michele LMS says:

    Enjoyed your post and appreciated your perspective on focusing on the “larger picture,” compassion, and global partnerships.


  5. Huffygirl says:

    What caught me about your post was the picture of Petra – this city has amazed me since I first saw it in IJLC. Good way to catch the audience to read the rest of your message.

  6. coreyaker says:

    You mean there’s more going on in the world than an election in the US some two months from now! Wow! Your point is well taken; too often we zero in on our own small world and miss the bigger picture of what’s going on around us. Thank you for this reminder to look beyond ourselves.

  7. Sarah says:

    Places like Petra are awe-inspiring & really put things into perspective. Americans are routinely told that we’re the greatest civilization the Earth has ever seen. That’s not only ridiculous, it’s so shallow it’s embarrassing. Thanks for the post and the beautiful photo. I hope to get there some day.

    • Hi Sarah – thanks form your feedback. I really appreciate it. I hope one day you can make it to Petra. My wife and I visited there as part of a trip we did to Israel. It is truly an amazing part of our world. And yes, I find the America is the great civilization in the history of the world rhetoric to be nauseating. Good luck getting to Petra! 

  8. Evie Garone says:

    I found your blog very illuminating, but must say I am VERY caught up in the US Presidential race, for if we do not Take America back, we may too soon be talking about the wonderful past of the great republic of America that was. So yes, I am sorry for the fighting in Syria, I am sad for the storm in the South of our Country but if we do not win this gigantic political fight, there may not be an America to help the rest of the globe! I agree with you the politics should not come to name calling, but must elevate to higher greater issues and people should be involved in this great Republic and gathering information to vote wisely which is their privilege.

    • Thanks for your feedback Evie. I think it is good you are involved and following the Presidential campaign – that is what democracy is all about. The key, in my opinion, is to realize that there is more going on in the world than the US election. I believe we have an obligation to know about these news events around the world and not get caught up with some of the pettiness and name calling that comes with campaigns.

  9. I really enjoyed your post. I’ve been longing to see Petra for some time. I’m fascinated with it in terms of time and place. Your post brought another perspective and I thank you.

  10. iRuniBreathe says:

    Great comparison of perspectives. If only we could open our eyes just a little bit more….
    Congrats on the FP, too.

  11. great perspective. I too dislike how pettiness trumps real world news in todays media. great post though. thank you for sharing

  12. Pingback: Celebrating Petra and learning from the Nabateans during the US presidential campaign | Don't Think I Don't Think About It

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