The crisis in Syria is just that – a crisis. The Obama administration is definitive that Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons on his people, and so the president wants to act to deter this event from happening again. American forces would strategically strike Syrian military and operational targets as a figurative slap on the wrist that would feel more like a punch to the nose. Problem is, Obama is having a tough time seeking support for such action. House Republicans will resist anything and everything this president proposes, even if it contains a vaccine for cancer. Britain has turned their back on the mess. The UN vote includes Russia, so no luck there.
The crisis in Egypt is also just that – a crisis – for the Muslim Brotherhood, for certain, but also for the country. Last month, the Egyptian military launched a coup (I can call it that; I’m not the president), fearful of the generically labeled ‘Islamic terrorist’, and with the “support” of the average civilian they aim to control, murdered over a thousand, arrested as many under trumped-up charges, all the while insisting that their interests are above the fray, geared toward a better, stronger Egypt. In response, President Obama issued a standard condemnation and cancelled some war games, yet still hasn’t reneged on our monetary support for their military.
What is going on? Simply put, these are men behaving badly, like they have from the beginning of time. (Women sometimes behave poorly also, and my gender implication isn’t even the point.) Historically, there have been conquerors – the white man in Africa, Britain over most of the world, Europeans in North and South America, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Caesar, Charlemagne, Alexander the Great – and then there are the rest of us, sometimes directly complicit in the conquerors’ machinations (Dick Cheney), more so just minding our own business. When I started writing this post, I was sitting in a gym in Anaheim, worried about Miss T’s black eye (an elbow to the cheek in soccer), the unusual rotations executed on Goldie’s volleyball team, and how best to use the money made last Saturday at the yard sale for Bun Bun’s soccer club. School started Tuesday, leaving me with time to figure out a life for myself, and what should we have for dinner tonight? Tomorrow? Do I have to see the One Direction movie or will the husband take them? My right knee hurts. I hope the chiropractor can see me this week. Why do printers, even new ones, only work half the time? How can I get the dogs to walk themselves?
Read the news (I do), particularly about anything happening in the Middle East, and pick your horror. Can you do anything about it? Probably. Will you? Probably not. And by ‘probably’, I mean you could call your congressional representative and tell them how you feel. Re: the Egyptian and Syrian leadership – well, the U.S. has supported questionable, often nefarious leaders since before I was born, defeating one in the name of freedom only to disapprove, and often destroy, the democratically elected replacement. There’s little sense to be made of ousting Saddam Hussein in the name of the Iraqi people (after the WMD issue was undone), and leaving Kim Jong Il to starve his own. His heir, son Kim Jong Un, reportedly had an old lover executed by firing squad for participating in a sex tape. It’s staggeringly awful. It’s crazy making. Hardly win-win, more like lose-lose. It’s our world, imperfect to a fault, capable of great brutality and unspeakable acts of hatred.
I write this because it’s something I think about often. I like to look at a problem and figure out a solution (implementation is another story). But the world’s problems? Can’t do it. Don’t want to. I’ll generally scream and shout about injustices, send a few emails, make a few phone calls, inspire you to do the same. But these days, I try to figure out how to get the girls home from their sports practices in time to finish their homework and head to a birthday party. And what about the NFL season coming up? First game is Thursday night and I’ve got a school thing. Dammit! And why is the pool turning green?
Everything is relative, but some things are more relative than others. That doesn’t make sense but neither does the world at large. How can my concerns be about my internet speed and that spinning color wheel, while children die every day, not just from chemical weapons exposure, but from starvation, neglect, poverty, disease, and lack of clean water?
There are several reasons why “The Year of Living Dangerously” is one of my all-time favorite movies. Reason number one has always been Billy Kwan. Played by Linda Hunt, Kwan is a photographer/philosopher and guide to Mel Gibson’s Guy Hamilton, a journalist covering the Sukarno regime in Indonesia. Thanks to previously mentioned internet, I offer you this scene:
And the people asked him, saying, “What then shall we do?”
It’s from Luke, chapter three, verse ten. What then must we do? Tolstoy asked the same question. He wrote a book with that title. He got so upset about the poverty in Moscow that he went one night into the poorest section and just gave away all his money. You could do that now. Five American dollars would be a fortune to one of these people.
Wouldn’t do any good, just be a drop in the ocean.
Ahh, that’s the same conclusion Tolstoy came to. I disagree.
Oh, what’s your solution?
Well, I support the view that you just don’t think about the major issues. You do whatever you can about the misery that’s in front of you. Add your light to the sum of light. You think that’s naive, don’t you?
If you can save the world, go have at it. My friend’s daughter is doing her part with LemonAID Warriors, building wells in Africa. Donate to her. And then just add your light.
What then must we do? Anything is better than nothing. Don’t sweat the small stuff, especially knowing that most of the world has it worse than you do. Add your light to the sum of light. That and a nickel will get you, at the very least, a cup of coffee.