Sharing sentiments with McCain

I know a lot of people in the Democratic party are blasting McCain for not saying what they want to hear about the Iraq war (I don’t agree with him either). And there are those who believe that he is nothing but a continuation of the Bush administration (I stop short of saying that, but I’ve been watching with an unsatisfied feeling as he makes some turn abouts on previous stances). And I know a lot of Republicans are leary of McCain because they say he isn’t conservative enough (see my post “In which I run across the issue of polarization…again” for more specifics), but I have to recognize his calls for a more international community and his recognition of the climate change issue as an important one. The Washington Times reported today that McCain, in an address that was apparently to give a layout of his international vision for the United States, “said the U.S. can no longer assume the mantle of lone democratic superpower, and is instead now a first among equals that must rely on an emerging ‘league of democracies’ to secure peace and freedom.”

Yes, I’m looking at the words “first among equals” with some skepticism, but his call for more international cooperation (which has been sorely lacking these past eight years) and his previous calls to draft a new treaty to fill in when Kyoto runs out are welcome words coming from the Republican camp as far as I am concerned. I want to feel that (whatever the reality) both major political parties have the country’s best interests at heart…I’ve not felt that from the R’s for a while. Good for John McCain.

Just thought I’d share…

It’s been a while since I last wrote an entry and I’m sorry for that…work busy-ness. Anyway, I found an extremely appropriate political cartoon today while looking through the Washington Post online. Just recently George Bush was quoted as saying that the eventual outcome of the war “will merit the sacrifice.” How should we feel about this sentiment? What is he actually saying? Well, I thank Mr. Toles for his astute summary.

The Man Behind the Curtain

How the immigration issue is now picking on kids

Well, it’s not like it didn’t pick on kids all along…but I need to read more specifics on that before I go shooting my mouth off on things other than what I’m writing about now.What I do know is this (and it’s something you should know before you read any further): I am a complete idealist in my heart-of-hearts. I’m a realist too, after all I would just be blind to ignore some of the truth behind why idealism can’t always work. But there are times when I feel that idealism trumps realism and I’m forced to ask the question, “I know ‘that’s just the way it is’, but for God’s sake, have a heart!” This is one of those cases.We are all citizens of a greater world, no matter what any hillbilly tells you. It is impossible to separate ourselves from the world at large. This is becoming especially more true as we move through this new century and the world become smaller and smaller. People are more mobile than ever before in history. We are becoming one people of this Earth, and because of this nationalism is begining to struggle back. I would love nothing more than to see borders be only lines on maps that deliniate space, rather than baricades designed to keep foriegners out. To see people freely move about this planet and among one another regardless of culture or place of origin…would make me happiest. But nationalism and national pride, government’s responsibility to it’s people and therefor it’s need to define who “it’s people” are make that difficult if not impossible right now. But when that idea begins to tread on children who are trying to make the best of an available education…I get upset.

This is about how the immigration laws are now forcing bright, hard working children out of education systems in which they are being successful and forcing them into unknown futures because we have not yet figured out a way to handle immigration without blindly and dumbly cracking the whip at these people and simply labeling them “lawbreaker!” I’m sorry, but we need to do better as a country. There’s got to be a better way. It just feels to me like this entire issue is based completely on the money. That’s disgusting. I understand the view that hard-working tax-paying citizens of this country shouldn’t have to shoulder financial burden for people who aren’t paying into the system themselves. I’m a realist, remember, I get it. But to me this entire immigration issue reeks of a lack of empathy…a lack of ability to put ourselves in another’s shoes. We are blinded by the fact that we have grown up here and are accustomed to our way of life. We have no concept of how life would be if we had grown up in a situation where we were not so fortunate. Can these angry people honestly say they wouldn’t try to do better by their family if given the chance, just because the country that offered that chance hadn’t pulled it’s collective head out of the sand and decided exactly where it stood in immigration? Maybe I’m completely misguided…I’d love to hear what others have to say about it, but I just know there’s got to be a better way.

The science of black and white…

We are moving towards the far ends of the spectrum. Over the past 6-8 years especially we have become increasingly polarized across the board on every major issue…especially here in the United States. Maybe I’m just too young to remember polarization of issues in the just-out-of-recent past, but it seems to me that polarization is a problem in every major issue I hear about. You’re either a skeptic or a fundamentalist-nut every time you open your mouth these days. I came across this post as I made my rounds through the blogs today. Now, (because I always try to give full disclosure) I believe that climate change is happening and we are causing it. BUT, I also believe in healthy debate and people forming their own opinions. I’m totally fine if someone doesn’t believe that we are effecting the atmosphere enough to be causing this, or if they feel that this is a cyclical process (not that I’m not passionate about what I believe, mind you…the point of debate after all is to convince). I don’t mind being disagreed with. But this post is a classic example of polarization. By addressing, not the issue of climate change itself but whether people who agree with it have turned it into a religion, you have now made anyone who says contrary sound like they are proving you right. You have taken away the chance for real honest debate. Want proof? Look at the responses. The first post doesn’t even argue the climate change position either. He makes a rather rational statement (passed on from someone he admired) that, even if we’re not effecting climate change, does it really hurt to take care of our planet? Now, scroll down to the 4th response (from someone with the name “papertiger”). This response states that there’s “[n]othing like having the first commenter inadvertently confirm the thesis of your post.” First off, I fail to see how the response from “Chris” actually confirmed any “thesis” (if you can call writing four sentences, a failed attempt at wit, and posting seven links to other people’s work a “thesis”) of people who agree we are affecting climate change turning it into a religion. He passed on a philosophical point of view, nothing more. No impassioned pleas, no insults, no climate change science. There were plenty of people who added those things in later, but not in this particular exchange. Second, (and this is actually kinda related to the first) by expressing this opinion-point and then inviting others to comment on it, the post-er has now polarized everyone who responds into those who agree with him and those who will be dismissed as having succumbed to the “religion”. The blogger here posted on the end of the discussion (at least the end when I found it) and said he just “disagree that man is the cause” of climate change, but his posts to begin with created an environment where the discussion could only be impassioned on both sides and turn to more than just the facts of the scenario (aka – get ugly), as blog responses so often do.For another example of this polarization, read this post about Michael Crichton and DDT. While I happen to agree with the blogger about DDT and the facts surrounding the issue, the writer has written in such a way as to polarize the issue (i.e.- using the word “hysterical”). I just see this so much in the discussion (as mentioned in the context of liberals and conservatives in my “Who knew Vermont had the balls” post) surrounding any issue. If you’re not in complete agreeance with one side, you must be the enemy, and therefore berated instead of reasoned with.You know who I blame…(surprise surprise) the current administration. They have set the standard across the country by polarizing people into “patriotic” or “terrorist sympathizers”. They’ve even added the category of “evil-doers”. I also blame Anne Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and most everyone who works for Fox, but they are prospering because of the atmosphere of acceptance given to this sort of discourse by Bush, Cheney, and they’re cronies.

Le Monde and my cellphone…what it all means

Somewhere along the winding path of history the American people will collectively look back and decide that we owe France (along with many others) an apology. Our government will never actually do it, but it is owed none the less. I don’t want to be yet another person jumping late onto the flogging of another issue related to what happened on September 11th, 2001, but I feel that the place we now sit in history (looming ever more apparently as the November elections draw closer) makes this particular thought I’m having today relevant.

We have lost a lot of the world’s good will over the past almost six years now. We had an overwhelming amount of sympathy and opportunity to heal old wounds and make new alliances almost across the board when the nations on this planet stood up in outrage over the horrifying events in the latter half of 2001. Our allies, and more importantly the people of those nations, extended their hands and their support to us. When Jean-Marie Colombani, the then editor of the French daily Le Monde splashed the headline “We Are All Americans” (linked here to the English version found in the World Press Review) across his paper on September 12th, he put to words the feelings that a lot of the world were trying to express to us at that moment. His article was touching and insightful, and an honest look at how the optimism that tried so hard to spill over from the previous year was coming into focus through the lens of the truths of the new century. He helped put the tragedy into a little perspective, both modern and historical, and he looked at the realities of the future. It was a grand gesture and it was beautifully written.

It wasn’t in the too distant future that the American legislative branch was renaming the fries served in the cafeteria “Freedom Fries” in a truly ringing blow to the ego of the French because of their lack of support of our pending action in Iraq. Not only do we owe France, and the rest of the world, a major apology, but it is also now up to us to begin to take the first steps toward healing those broken bonds with our former international allies.

Just as the world’s empathetic feelings were well summed up in a news article after the attacks, the modern world view of the United States is rather well represented by an article written on September 7th, 2006 by Mai Yamani, a Saudi-Arabian activist, writer and anthropologist, (found in the “Comment is Free” section of the Guardian website). Appropriately bookending the article written in the Le Monde, Yamani titled her piece “We are no longer all Americans“. Yamani’s descriptions of how the Muslim world was just as shocked about the attacks as any other group in the world, and how those in the regions now affected so detrimentally by the U.S.’s ridiculous “War on Terror” (Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon) were let down by the U.S. is both eye opening and difficult to hear, especially as an American. But it is honest. I lament our lost opportunities to be a leader in the world. I mourn for the seeming campaign of disregard and exploitation we have unleashed across this beautiful earth. Our apology at this point is due to all of mankind as well.

While I direct blame for these things at those who are orchestrating this from the upper echelons of our government, I believe that the apology must come from us as Americans as well. Where is the outcry from us as citizens at these things begin done in our name?! I’m sure that the blogs are afire and dinner table conversation is angry from time to time when the subject comes up, but we have been just as culpable in these events due to our lack of true irate reaction to the horrible misuse of the goodwill that sprung from the very pores of the citizens of the earth. Joni Mitchell, in the February 2008 issue of the music magazine Mojo, called the current generation “lackluster”. She seemed to think that her generation didn’t instill in us the abilities to speak up effectively…or at least didn’t teach us how to spur ourselves out of apathy well enough. Are we who are the spawn of the 60’s generation jaded and unable to act upon the populous caretaker role intended for the American citizens by the Founding Fathers? I know that those of my generation that I talk to are outraged and ready for action…I just think we’re not sure what to do. Of course we all realize that it all begins with voting. But I believe we’re a generation of do-ers. Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, military service, teaching, and technical careers seem to be just a few examples of the things that my generation support and dive right into because we know that they make a difference. We like to root out the problems in a way that we can actually get our hands dirty fixing. We feel stuck on this one because the technical bits of how to get it done are eluding us.

Where does my cellphone fit into all this? I think part of our problem is that we are such a throw-away society. Just this morning my cellphone broke, but not so bad as to be unusable. I have a stupid habit of storing my phone in my back pocket, and the front screen broke (second one in a year) when I sat on it. As I mulled over what to do about it I realized that replacement was the only option if I wanted to do anything at all. The phone technology is so small that to fix it would cost more than the phone itself. Not to long ago I ran into the same problem with a digital camera. I hear all the time, about a wide variety of objects, “Just replace it. It would cost more than it’s worth to fix it.” We even build things (like cellphones and digital cameras) that are designed in such a way that they almost have to be replaced whenever any little bit stops working. Gone are the days where there was a repairman for everything and the idea of just getting rid of something because it was broken was absurd. I’m not lamenting any notion of “the good ol’ days”, but I’m suggesting that this shift in attitude has led us to throw away more important things…like minutes, time, opportunity, relationships, and compassion. We seem to think there’ll always be more of…everything. There won’t. The technical details of how to fix the current world mess we Americans find ourselves in will take so long that our generation probably won’t see the end of it. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t our responsibility to start the work. This idea of not really getting to witness the true fruits of what you dedicate your life isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination. Just ask a teacher about it, especially an elementary teacher, and even more especially a kindergarten teacher (hardest working people in education). The work my generation needs to begin is with a simple American attitude shift. We need to start cherishing the idea that things can last. We need to think long term (as in beyond our life-span). We need to end the “throw-away society” mentality and apply this new philosophy to the world at large as well.

I’m looking forward to the new elections, not specifically for a new person in the White House (although that too), but because I feel an attitude shift coming on. I’m not going to get into particular candidates or parties or platforms, but looking at those running right now I feel encouraged that there is a sniff of this shift in the air.