What Does a Great America Do With Syria?

I’m horrified by the chemical weapons attack in Syria. Anyone with a pulse and a heartbeat should be.

But what does it mean for Americans?

We are currently under an “America First” leadership policy. President Trump would say that “the people” have given him a clear initiative “Make America Great Again.” I wonder what a Great America does in the face of this current catastrophe?

I hope that you will all grant me a few assumptions:

  1. The United States of America is a world leader.
  2. The United States has tremendous power over other countries by virtue of where we spend our money and energy. (Energy includes military force, but also political humanitarian efforts.)

Knowing what a Great America should do is a very big, complicated question that I don’t have the expertise to answer. But it shouldn’t stop me from thinking about it in terms that DO make sense.

Let’s take it to the playground.

On any given playground there are groups/cliques/circles – call it what you will. Some are stronger than others, have more sway on the basketball court, deciding who gets to play and on what team. One group may rule the jumprope rotation, deciding who gets to be the jumpers and who holds the rope.  Ask any kid and they’ll tell you, the rules of the playground are COMPLICATED. Nothing is never as it seems from the outside perspective, there are slight moves being made at every moment that dictate how recess will progress. Some days it ends in fights, other days it’s quiet.

One day your kid comes home with a black eye and a confusing story about how he got it. Something about a basketball, an agreement between 3 other kids, and a jumprope competition. You go to the leaders of the “free time” – the teachers, playground volunteers, and the administration looking for help.

The leaders have choices:

  1. Do nothing. Kids will be kids.
  2. Bring the class into a special session on bullying. Create new policies.
  3. Launch an incident investigation, whittle down the list of probable suspects, and enact a punishment.

Choice 1: Do Nothing

Your kid spends most every recess “volunteering” in the classroom, his academics begin to suffer, and it’s clear he’s unhappy. Unfortunately for you, you are in a one public school town, no money for private school, and no time to homeschool. You wait it out, hoping that things work themselves out. They don’t, they only get worse.

Choice 2: Special Session on Bullying, Create New Policies

Things improve slightly. You learn new ways to talk to your kid about how to handle a bully, and what to do if someone is getting bullied. The incident is out in the open, everyone is watching for signs of bad behavior. The instigators are quieted for a bit. There will be another incident, but now a policy is in place. New bullying sessions are convened, and the repeat offenders start to show themselves and are able to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Choice 3: Probable Suspects Punished

Things may improve, or they may get MUCH worse. The bullying starts to occur in the shadow moments, off to the side, or off the playground completely. The tactics change from less visible black eyes to the shattering of all self-esteem. The bullying becomes less obvious to the leaders, but more sophisticated and treacherous to their victims.

What does this have to do with Syria?

We’ve already assumed we, the Great America, are a world leader. We have the ability to effect change on not one child getting bullied, but on hundreds and thousands of children who are suffering at the hands of dictator bullies, regime bullies, and rebel bullies.

We can do nothing and let the suffering go on for years, decades, and for many, their entire lives.

We can attempt to effect change by bringing everyone to the table. Look for solutions from a world perspective, creating policies and pacts that reduce the power of those who would do harm, and bolster those that would do better.

We can enact swift punishment, using missiles and ground troops. Altering the fight, forcing some into the shadows, and potentially alter the fight in some new, equally disturbing direction.

As a parent of a child, what would you want from your school leadership?

As a parent of a child in Syria, what would you want from your world leadership?

As a parent of this Great America, I want my leadership to work with all the leaders of the free world and look for solutions to the complicated problem that is Syria, maintaining in interest in the better for everyone, not just in the “better for us”.

I know it’s a silly analogy – a playground and a civil war zone – but it works for me on some level. It helps me evaluate my leadership’s response to this crisis. Despite what “caused” this catastrophe – a statement from the White House last week, or a decision from the U.N. Security Council four years ago – this is happening. And as a parent and an American, it would sadden me if we do nothing.

A Great America would do something, together with other world leaders, with great thought and deliberation. A Great America would lead efforts to protect the innocent. A Great America would choose it’s allies carefully, ensuring the good of the children and the good of the world remain our first priority, even if it means a little less time at recess for us.

What do you think the United States should do? Is there a better analogy to help me understand how to evaluate this situation and my leaders? 

**A little side-note here: There are a lot of articles written on the topic of Syria, most of which require, at minimum, a college degree to understand; the majority requiring at least a degree in politics. There is not a lot written for the vast number of people who have neither. I’m a firm believer in doing the right thing, and in this situation it means engaging everyone in the conversation. Most adult Americans are parents, and maybe one parent to another we can have a dialogue about what the right thing to do might be without calling each other out as donkeys or elephants.



For reference, here’s just a few articles that informed me. Regardless of my political leanings, I do my best to source from several opposing outlets.

Worst Chemical Attack in Years in Syria – New York Times

Timeline of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria – Fox News

White House Response to Syrian Attacks – Fox News

Gas Attack in Syria – CNN

Syrian Gas Attack Reportedly Kills Dozens – NBC News

Life imitating art… if NPR is considered art (which I think it is)

I came across an interesting piece today. Actually, it was completely uninteresting to me since it is merely a reflection of my daily life.

 

Apparently NPR has apologized to this 4-yr-old little girl for covering the presidential election so much that it made her cry. Sweet. It was nice of them to make nice with a viral video sensation. But honestly, 4-yr-old’s cry about E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

They are the mini embodiment’s of Goldilocks. Everything is too hot, too cold. Too loud, too soft. Too much attention, not enough attention.  If I apologized every time my 4-yr-old was unhappy with the world around her, the only words I would ever get a chance to say would be “I’m sorry.”

So I read the apology that NPR issues. It’s basically an apology for being who they are.

On behalf of NPR and all other news outlets, we apologize to Abigael and all the many others who probably feel like her. We must confess, the campaign’s gone on long enough for us, too. Let’s just keep telling ourselves: “Only a few more days, only a few more days, only a few more days.”

Really, NPR? Doesn’t anyone in your office have a 4-yr-old?

I look at NPR as the parent of the reporting world, offering content that is thought provoking, and at times moving, with a dose of kind admonishment of our sometimes misguided ways. All things considered, your apology was not only unnecessary, but a little annoying to this mom of a 4-yr-old. The presidential election is the talk of the nation, and I want to hear your reporting on it.  In fact, I want you to tell me more. In fact, I find your programming a breath of fresh air from the constant complaining in my car otherwise.

I’m sorry, I don’t speak chimp.

NikkoNoEvil4902

NikkoNoEvil4902 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever found yourself in a “discussion”, only to realize halfway into it that the other person is standing on the pulpit, and this is a one-way conversation?  If you have been out anywhere socially in the last year, or have a Facebook account, I’m going to wager that the answer is “yes”. It’s an epidemic. And my use of the term pulpit is not to imply that these discussions are exclusively religious in nature, but they are included.

What is going on? The 2012 presidential campaign has “descended into trench warfare”, attacks on mosques are a security concern, and a gay night club is attacked with fire projectiles.  And that’s just headlines from today.

It appears that we no longer have the capacity to see each other as worthy of a discussion. We resort to dismissive, hurtful, and even violent behavior all in the name of “being right.”

“…when we discriminate, prejudge, and/or take advantage of others for personal gain, we view and treat others as sub-human, and in doing so justify our behavior, for we value our own hopes, dreams, and aspirations as more important – or more human – than those of others.”

via Sub-Human: A Justification of Exploitation – Brian E. Konkol | Gods Politics Blog | Sojourners.

We have to be “so right” that we diminish another person’s existence to something akin to highly evolved chimps.

Where is this state of opinion coming from? How do we change this wave of perception that we are better than others, we are more right, and ultimately more important?  How can we reconnect our society, and make all members worthy of respect? 

How do we find our way back to discussion?

I think Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has some insight in her speech The Power of Vulnerability on TEDTalks. I encourage you to watch it.

Because we are all just children.

via German Federal Archive

In grade school, I had a teacher that would start to whisper if the class got too loud. A simple, yet effective tactic, since we all quieted down to figure out what the crazy lady was saying. And she was a little crazy, she was a nun.

I was reminded of this experience while checking Facebook and saw another impassioned, yet reckless, post about a polarizing political issue, demanding allegiance or face a de-friending.  Whether or not I agreed is beside the point, it hit me like a battle cry. Take up arms with me, or be my enemy!

When did we all get so worked up about everything, particularly political agendas? We have become a world of squeaky wheels, to the point that all we can hear is the roar of opinion. This land needs some oil – STAT.

I’m fine if you have an opinion that differs from mine. I will feel superior to you, but you feel the same about me, so it’s a wash. But what I am not going to do is run around screaming at the top of my lungs, “You are either WITH me or AGAINST me! Your choice!” Really, is that a choice? I DISAGREE with you, but I am not going to shoot you.

Stop taking aim people, it’s counterproductive. Quiet down for a minute, use your inside voice, and just tell me what you want and why. If you whine and scream at me, I’m just going to put you in time-out until you can calm yourself. Or hide you on my news stream on Facebook. If you want to talk about it, I will listen, but I will make up my own mind at the end of the day.

I’m switching to my whisper voice now.

Please stop acting like little children, and let’s have an adult conversation.

Thanks.

 

bigoted about bigots

The cycle of bigotry, so well explained. From an excellent blogger, barelypoppins, who I have come to enjoy reading immensely!

barelypoppins

It’s true, I can’t stand bigots.
I’m narrow-minded about narrow-mindedness.
I’m intolerant of prejudice.
I’m opinionated about the obstinate.
I’m small-minded about the unfair.
I’m bigoted about bigots.

Oliver Wendell Holmes described bigots with the quote: “The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract.”

My mind contacts and my ears shrivel up when I hear a bigot speaking about their intolerance. Somehow I’ve become a bigot to bigots.

Félix Julien Jean Bigot de Préameneu who, despite his name, was probably not a bigot due to his involvement in developing the Napoleonic Code, which forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified.

If only the bigoted were all bigots for rights, freedoms and justice. But, I have found, sadly, they are not. And so…

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Is there an expiration date on apologies?

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in th...

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in the film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I was faced with the reality that my actions in high school hurt someone. More accurately, that my inaction hurt.

I was alerted to a blog post written by someone I attended school with who was bullied mercilessly.  It was written with such honesty and pain that it brought me to my knees.  While I don’t remember seeing any of the bullying happening to him personally, I saw and heard plenty in those days that I turned away from, pretending that nothing was happening.  After reading his post, I expressed my apologies and regret at not being a better person so many years ago.

Yesterday I read an article about a brave young women who posted a poem about her experience being bullied on a class reunion website. Her classmates were moved by her words and have since rallied with apologies and a fundraiser to get her back to the reunion.

It makes me wonder, do apologies go stale after so much time has passed? I was not the victim of bullying in my youth. Cruelly teased at times, yes, but not bullied.  If I had been, what would those apologies mean to me today?  Would it give me any solace knowing that my tormentors had grown up to be decent people that regret the actions of their youth?  Would it make my younger me feel any better about what happened?

I know in 12-step programs one of the steps is to make amends with the people that we have hurt.  Making amends is referred to as restoring justice and it does not always mean  apologizing directly to the people we have hurt. Often it is making changes in our life and in our behaviors to make it better, safer, for the people around us.   Amends seems a far greater gesture than an apology.

Most of us will not have the opportunity to apologize to the people we hurt directly.  In the case of bullying, either by torment or apathy, we are called to recognize our part in the cruelty that some people dismiss as a “”rite of passage.”  We have a chance and an opportunity to make amends to the children of our past by teaching OUR children that taunts, jeers, exclusion and violence are NEVER acceptable towards another human being. We can be an example of how to stand up for others that are being treated unjustly, and not walk away from another person in pain.

While I was offered an opportunity to apologize to someone directly, and would do it again, I think it’s much more important that I make amends for my part in history.  I am teaching my children that everyone has a purpose, a value, and a gift to share. I do not permit mean comments about other children, whether it is about their clothes, hair, or any other attribute that may seem different.  I do not force friendships, but I expect tolerance.  I work every day at modeling acceptance, and it’s not always easy, but I know that my little charges are watching, listening, and taking their cues from me.

I would hope that my amends will make a difference, even if my apologies don’t.

Rage against free speech?

The following image circulated the world of Facebook today:

It was pointed out by someone that this picture is offensive, that is mocks free speech, opinion, and the right to demonstrate.

I wonder would it have been less offensive to use this picture instead?

I am absolutely, 100% behind equality (My Married Life), and I am also 100% behind free speech (Sometimes You Need to Have Diarrhea).

What does the image say to you?

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