My Ukrainian grandpa was a deeply curious man, but his inquisitive nature sometimes got the best of us. I will always remember him dismantling his green Volga automobile down to the metal skeleton because he thought it would be the best way to understand just how a car worked.
Soon, we both realized the difficult challenge of trying to reassemble all the parts — which took most of a decade to accomplish. Every day, my grandpa would come home from work on the farm and painstakingly try to put the bits and pieces back together. I was his helper, a preschooler who wore the dirt from farm work and the grease from the garage with pride.
When we look at politics and policy, and try to break things down to the nuts and bolts, hopefully we understand that every part is useless on its own until it’s paired with other singular, useless pieces to make a working machine.
These days, some political leaders seemingly want the world to regress to darker times, so it becomes very difficult to escape the turbulent waves of social and political unrest and put the pieces together to see the “big picture.” For a moment, let’s take a break from politics and look at the logic behind how the world works.
Nations do not exist in isolation. They are connected in a global machine whose essential gears include money, laws, economies, treaties, trade agreements, global bodies, businesses, corporations, banks and science. They’re also connected by land, oceans, air, people, ideas, ideologies, languages, food and art — the conveyer belts of our machine. These interconnecting enterprises continue to grow, adapt and respond as they have since the dawn of civilization.
Last week, I drove a Japanese car assembled in Mexico, while listening to an Italian song composed by an Austrian, sung by an Englishwoman, and transmitted through a device invented by Germans through acquired scientific knowledge produced over time by researchers all over the world. I drove it to an American company that served me Peruvian coffee. My humble journey to get a cup of coffee turned into an odyssey when we consider the acting domestic and international players that contributed to every action.
The fabric of modern life is fostered by collective contributions on a world-wide scale, and even though the United States plays a significant role in the field, it is not the only innovator, not the only mechanism that turns our machine.
We live in the legacy of the past. The most fundamental inventions that shape our world today — the wheel (invented in Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iran), the compass (China), tools (Ethiopia) — were spread through local and long-distance trading. Apart from material inventions, you also see the spread of ideas like democracy from Greece, or the foundations of mathematics from Mesopotamia and Asia. And modern-era inventions including the telephone, or the airplane produced by our great nation, were invented by a Scottish and a Brazilian immigrant.
How different would our world be if our nations existed in isolation? What is a globe without globalization? Many of the great accomplishments — and the great tragedies — of our world are products of our interconnectivity.
Amid today’s political turbulence, we must remember that our nation required building. As we continue to build, adding new parts, testing and improving its operations, adding knowledge gleaned from a global marketplace of materials and ideas, we cannot allow the narcissism of minor differences or larger divisions to limit the prosperity that can be achieved. For our machine to function optimally, we must stand with our collective alliances, and respect those who strive to contribute to our shared prosperity.
Mary Blankenship is an economics and chemistry double major, and Brookings public policy minor student at UNLV.