Sunday, August 31, 2014

Am I Part of the Problem?

Cognitive dissonance: when you expect music but all you hear is noise  

I look at the world and I shake my head in confusion. I should be living the dream. Instead, my life often feels more like a nightmare. There are glorious aspects for which I am profoundly grateful, but the context around the golden nuggets seems increasingly disconnected and bizarre. Or was August 2014 just a particularly horrific month?

Just this past month alone:
  • ISIL is threatening. Video footage of a journalist’s brutal execution circulated through social media networks. The United States authorized airstrikes in Iraq. Approximately a dozen American citizens (read: US passport holders) have taken up arms in support of ISIS, ISIL, or whatever they are calling themselves this week. After our huge investment in Iraq, why have we been unable to promote stable societies in the region?
  • Russia is looming. War raged between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies fomenting this or supplying the separatists or supporting them with troops, weapons, and equipment. Yet Russian troops, weapons, and equipment are clearly involved. Putin says that maybe some troops are using their military leave to vacation in Ukraine, and what is he supposed to do, pull their passes? After our Cold War victory and NATO expansion, why have we been unable to contain Russia?
  • The Levant is boiling. The death toll in Gaza escalated. The US has negotiated with Hamas, giving them the legitimacy they desire. The US has simultaneously backed an increasingly aggressive Israeli regime. Combined with our failure to contain ISIL, our schizoid foreign policy is paving the way for Armageddon. With all the bright minds at our disposal, why were we not able to see this coming?
  • Diseases are raging. About 1,500 people died in one of the largest Ebola outbreaks in history. Even supposedly cured diseases are coming back. Polio is back and on the rise, mostly because some parents refuse the vaccine. What!? My own brother is in the fight of his life, battling Glioblastoma Multiforme Grade 4. This same drama is playing out for many, many families who love someone fighting a horrible, incurable disease. We are all pleading for more time as the doctors, doing all they can, are scrambling to find a cure. Why have we been unable to eradicate disease?  
  • Ferguson is burning. A policeman fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year old Michael Brown, and left his body in the street for 4 hours. The incident incited protests and more violence. White people tend to point our that at 18, Michael Brown was an adult, not a boy, and he should not have been involved in a robbery, and he should not have pushed the Police officer before making a move to swipe the officer's side-arm. In other words, he was a punk who had it coming. And black people view the incident itself and the militarization of the Police force as proof of institutionalized oppression. Why have we been unable to build stable communities
  • Heroes are dying. Robin Williams, who usually makes us laugh, succumbed to his personal demons and took his own life this month. Whether Robin Williams was a hero or not is debatable, but he was certainly popular. What about the relatively unknown soldier who cannot find a way to cope with war's aftermath? One hears the term "Hero" bandied about so often that it may be over-used, but the young men and women who answer the Nation's call to duty qualify in my book. Suicides among our warriors are surging, averaging nearly one a day this year – the fastest pace in the nation's decade of war. Why are too many people feeling that the only answer to their problems is to end their own lives
  • Reporters are lying.  A psychologist claims that 10% of men are rapists, and NPR broadcasts and publishes this as if it were proven fact. Really? A democracy depends on an objective media reporting the truth in a clear manner. We do not need editorial slant on the front page. We are all entitled to our opinions, but we don't need someone else's opinions or biases passed off as objective fact. What happens to a society dedicated to democratic ideals when the Fourth Estate touches the Third Rail

How did this cauldron of greed, hatred, and injustice become the world in which I am raising my children? How could I be so wrong about so many things? Is my way of thinking outmoded? Am I actually part of the problem?

Nicholas Kristof thinks so, at least on the Ferguson issue, He says the race issue deserves more attention, not less. He says that racism caused the militarization of the Police force in Ferguson. He says that racism, not thuggery, caused the inevitable death of Mr. Brown. And in Part 2 of his New York Times OpEd, Kristof again shared the view that I am part of the problem when he wrote that whites just don't get it. My opinion is probably not going to be published in the New York Times, but in my opinion, we should look at behavior, not race. In my opinion, looking at race is the very definition of racism.

The iconic towers of the World Trade Center before 9/11

To me, the turning point in the World as We Know It was 9/11. The unpopular (but in my opinion, justified and necessary) wars that followed under the Bush Administration paved the way for the election of 2008. Americans elected Barrack Obama in part because the American people got tired of fighting to preserve stability in the Middle East. The problem is not Obama, the Man. The problem is America, the Sheeple. We elected an idealistic orator over a crotchety curmudgeon in 2008, and again over a smarmy oligarch in 2012. For better or for worse, in a democracy we get exactly what we deserve.

So let's look at what kind of world we have crafted for our children. Iraq is crumbling from within, not just because the Coalition departed, but our departure (abdication?) certainly emboldened and enabled the broader, Anti-West agenda, to wit:

  • Russia is cackling with glee. It has (a) Europe in a headlock over energy, (b) the bulk of Asia as military customers, and (c) a feckless America at arm's length; 
  • ISIS is literally erasing the borders between Syria and Iraq, as in, cutting the berms with dozers. 
  • Though the Sunni-Shia divide is sharp, ISIS wants to re-establish the Islamic dominance in the Middle Eastern region first, then settle the leadership issue under the restored Caliphate 
  • The Russian-backed Syrian president has just been re-elected, despite (or because of?) dropping barrel bombs on dissenters 
  • Iran is happy to push Shi'a Islam westward, through Baghdad and toward Israel. Soon they will be within striking distance of Jerusalem with Russian-made weapons; 
  • The Kurds are happy, since they have set their sites on swiping Diyarbakir from Turkey and creating the country of Kurdistan. And really, who will stop them? Iraq? Turkey alone? Turkey with NATO? Russia and China patiently await NATO's demise. They will watch and secretly help NATO sink into oblivion. 
  • By negotiating with Hamas, even "unofficially," the Obama administration is giving them all the legitimacy they need; 
  • China is not Anti-West in the same sense as the Russians and most of the Muslim world. China would rather ally with Asia than with America, it's as simple as that. 

If I have been part of the problem, let me be part of the solution going forward. Or, if the solution is unacceptable capitulation, then let me continue to be part of the problem until balance and stability is restored. Here is my wish-list:

  • I want Russia neutered. Not physically, but politically, diplomatically, and--if necessary--militarily. (And maybe physically.) The Russia-Syria-Iran-China alliance is deeply troubling, especially when added to the ongoing unrest in Israel and surrounds. How much more of a threat does Russia need to be before we do something?
  • I want Israel to exist. Preferably peacefully, and preferably as a state on land promised to her in the Bible. Granted, the Torah says that the Jews are to live in permanent diaspora as punishment, and the Koran is even less kind to God's Chosen People. But I do not advocate wiping Israel off the map. Further, I support resisting any attempt to do so. That said, I don't want Israel to have carte blanche to do whatever she pleases with our unblinking backing.
  • I want ISIL crushed. Too few people in this country worry about whether their children will have grandchildren before Armageddon. Really, is pushing off Armageddon for a couple more generations too much to ask? Can we put down our wide-screen TV remotes and think past Tuesday?
  • I want a cure for disease. Especially cancer and Ebola. And I want it by Tuesday. My brother needs a cure now and there are many others in a similar fight. On that note, I also want to live in society where people respect science and take the vaccine rather than risk infecting the rest of us. Speaking of society,  
  • I want social justice. I want respect and rewards for people who do good, and fair punishment for people who break law--regardless of age, race, gender, or economic standing. This means that I want a Major General killed in combat to be revered while a thug who gets himself killed trying to take a cop's side-arm to be quickly forgotten, not the reverse. And 
  • I want the truth. Yes, I want it, and yes, I can handle it. I want people to expect--no, demand--the objective truth all of our institutions, to include the media. Wait, especially the media. If the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches all screw it up, we can still get by if the Fourth Estate holds to the Truth. But if the media fails, too, we are well and truly screwed.

Is that to much to ask? Am I so wrong to ask for these things?

"Bring home the troops!" Polls are running this country, not leaders. Where are the leaders like the Churchill and Roosevelt who articulated a compelling, unifying vision, and only then listened to advisers and even the public opinion polls? In this country, the selfish tail is wagging the stupid dog. And Putin is playing fetch with bigger and bigger sticks (Crimea, Ukraine, former Eastern Block countries who joined NATO...).

Am I right? Or am I part of the problem? Or perhaps I am just ranting again...