Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hope and Fear are two sides of the same coin

I know there are many who are genuinely terrified about the events in the Arab World.  There are calls for the UN to intervene (and they should if they can ever get past the meeting stage), for Pres.Obama to jump into all the fray (at home and abroad).  At this moment, I am grateful for his deliberative nature.  Last time we went Cowboy in the Middle didn't/hasn't worked out so well for us and I don't think we need to reinforce that image or policy.

Personally, the spread of freedom makes me giddy.  I am not as afraid of the chaos as some...although Libya is a particularly difficult situation w/a crazy person w/lots of weapons.  There is a concept developed by Albert Bandura called "collective efficacy."  It is the point at which a group of people wakes up to the fact that they can in fact, impact their lives, change the status quo--the recognition of collective power.  Just as it is with personal discovery, once you realize that you don't have to stay at a job you hate, in a bad marriage, or in a situation that is soul-crushing  for you...once it hits you that you can DO SOMETHING...all sorts of possibilities previously unseen are suddenly evident.  This is happening en masse in the Arab world.

There is a fear that democracy will allow Islamic extremists to win elections or manipulate the democratic purpose.  This is a legitimate fear...but, the truth is that all of these uprisings are a blow to al Qaeda.  This is not how they envisioned the "liberation" of Muslims.  Just as we (the West) cannot and should not control events across the seas...they are in no position to do so either.  It bears repeating that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is a bit of an unknown, but they are not the same as al Qaeda.  In many ways, this collective efficacy of the people is Osama's worst nightmare.  They have been weakened and our biggest threat is Pakistan...always has been.

Democracy is a funny thing and is dependent upon the will of the majority (and sometimes that means the people elect Hezbollah).  It isn't our place to decide what is best for other countries...when will we learn humility?  We are a young country.  We've had some problems with it ourselves historically and currently.  What happened to cause the Great Recession (and the lack of prosecution since) is proof enough that ours is broken in some fundamental ways.  If you need any further all articles written by Matt Taibbi in "Rolling Stone" in the last two years...I haven't gotten his latest book...but, he has been meticulously documenting all the shenanigans and charlatanry of the players who broke the world and who have not only not faced accountability, but have been and continue to be rewarded with our money.  It is the biggest swindle ever perpetrated on the American people and it seems most people are too busy to care.  It is by far my biggest disappointment with President Obama.

Generally, I am hopeful.  The only fear I have is that because nobody listened to Jimmy Carter forty years ago...the Oil flow has us by the short and curlies.  If it is disrupted and gas goes above $5 a gallon (which is a conservative estimate) all of us regular people will get screwed AGAIN.  The economy--on an unsteady, but slow recovery since the damage done by the last Administration and Wall Street--will take a hit--and not just will be a global gut punch.  As usual, those who live on the edge (no matter where in the world) will pay the biggest price.

I urge President Obama to do exactly what he is doing...talking w/other world leaders, quietly plotting strategies dependent on how things unfold.  If there continues to be mass murder in Libya--the UN must intervene...not the US alone.  We must be very cautious.  The brutal truth  is that the last Administration started two wars easily enough with no plan or consideration about the consequences for our military or for our standing in the world.   Everyone screaming for us to start wars with Iran or jump into Libya should enlist if they feel so strongly about it...otherwise our military is suffering enough as it is...and our veterans still have to fight for every bit of care they were promised.

We have elections coming fact, the electioneering has already seems all the serious contenders from the Republican side all work at Fox News, except Mr. Plastic--Mitt Romney (aka Guy Smiley).  There is unrest across our country...because of lack of jobs, because of the assault on working people, because everyone is broke.  I don't believe Americans know what they want because they are too busy trying to survive...except the top 2% of course--who own everything and must not be asked to pay their fair share.  There is unrest across Europe.  Everything is in flux.  But guess what?  It always is and what we need and what the world needs is thoughtful, strategic leaders who are listening and finding ways to meet the needs of their people.  May they all (the not-crazy ones) be empowered to do the right things going forward.  It is tricky no matter how we proceed.

I am not a believer that anything "has to be."  I believe that anything is always possible.  And if there is a God (and that's my own personal struggle--please don't preach), then that God is not constrained by change.  The God I sometimes believe in is adaptable, wise and above all, has love for the least of these.  I believe that we are the hands and feet of this God and all that we do everyday and how we treat the least of these is how we are judged.  I don't believe this all the time...I'm agnostic for a reason and weary of Absolutes.  But, I know that human can and do shape their lives in ways that are unforeseen and sometimes miraculous.  Bill O'Reilly would call me a Secular Humanist...and that puts me in good company (hey Kurt Vonnegut!), regardless--I truly hope for my children and all the people of the world that it is possible that we can remake the world.  We can make it more fair, less corrupt, less deceptive, less cynical, less tied to extremist ideas (no matter where they come from).  I have to believe it.

I hear young people talking about the end of the world.  I hear their fear and desperation.  Please don't give up yet...we have many miles to go before we sleep and American apathy is one of the biggest problems we face.  I told an Irish couple we met last night that we had too much good TV to watch to be bothered with revolution.  We are lulled by "things."  We are blinded by treats and fake feel-good tripe.  It is time to wake up and be clear-eyed and clear-headed.  I am fortunate to challenge this desire of many to withdraw every push them to engage, despite the risks.  I choose Hope over Fear.  I cannot look at my children and do otherwise.

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