Post-Thanksgiving Thoughts

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Are we beginning to forget?

I’ve been following the Syrian Refugee Crisis tag in my Reader, and I’ve noticed a steady downturn in the number of posts dealing with the subject. Whereas in the days immediately following the first gubernatorial declarations new posts were published by the second, now, in the midst of Black Friday madness and the fading general food coma, they have dwindled to one or two per day.

But this is still happening. They still need our help. And the doors are still closed.

Yesterday, I enjoyed a wonderful meal with wonderful people whose wonderful faces I’ve seen far too little of over the past few years. Good food, good conversation, warmth and love and family togetherness. For all this, I am more than thankful.

But this is still happening. They still need our help. And the doors are still closed.

Today, you may make it home with a really cool new possession bought on the cheap, and you may enjoy your new toy for months to come, and there’s nothing wrong with that…so far as it goes. Five thousand channels, high def, a movie theater in your living room. Or the newest iPhone: makes phone calls and cappuccino, while you wait. Another distraction in an over-stimulated life.

But this is still happening. They still need our help. And the doors are still closed.

I don’t mean to judge; I don’t mean to place myself on an undeserved pedestal. I forget, too. Out of sight, out of mind. And there are so many things to watch on Netflix. I get it; it’s my addiction, as well. Boy, howdy, is it ever.

But this is still happening. They still need our help. And the doors are still closed.

This is simply a gentle reminder, to all of us, that in times like these we can’t afford to forget, lest we be forgotten. I leave you with the words of Percy Bysshe Shelley:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Spread the word:
Open the doors!!!

Do What’s Right, and Risk the Consequences

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All those with agency are confronted by a choice. We can use that agency to secure for ourselves a safe and comfortable existence. We can use our life, that one unrepeatable product of four billion years of serendipity and evolution, to earn a little more, to save a little more, to win the approval of our bosses and the envy of our neighbors….We can, quite rationally, subordinate our desire for liberty to our desire for security. Or we can use our agency to change the world, and, in changing it, to change ourselves. We will die and be forgotten with no less certainty than those who sought to fend off death by enhancing their material presence on earth, but we will live before we die through the extremes of feeling which comfort would deny us.

– George Monbiot

The above quote is from a book called The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order (2003). It’s posted on my cubicle wall at work; it makes my mind tingle every time I read it. It is, quite simply, magnificent. And at the moment, quite apropos.

Everyone says original thinkers are those who “think outside the box.” That’s not enough for me. I want to take the box outside, smash it to pieces, set it on fire, and forget there was ever a box in the first place. I want to start fresh. Every. Single. Time.

We have reached a point in our evolution as a planet at which this sort of thinking is the only way forward. Postmodernism paved the way, pointing out the moral potency of language and reminding us that individual perception is at least as important as collective interpretation to understanding the world we live in. But I would argue that we’ve moved past even that: it’s time now for the rise of a new metanarrative. We must reassemble what we’ve so assiduously deconstructed. The individual must once again become part of a whole.

That whole is the global community. Not a new world order, necessarily; that’s a loaded term that conjures for many the abandonment of identity. Perhaps instead a “new world understanding.” Not the rejection, but the redefinition, of identity. Now that we have come to appreciate the value of the one, how do we build something bigger, better, and stronger on that foundation? How do we reconstruct?

Here in the United States, the first step toward this new understanding involves a reassessment of who we are as a nation. The “superpower” paradigm is no longer viable. The world doesn’t need watchdogs; the world needs good global citizens. We need to embrace the global community that, in large part, we created, by way of corporations like Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, and McDonald’s.

This means reining in those very corporate actors, the ones who give us such a bad name around the world. The ones that go into developing nations in the name of solidarity, use up all the local resources, enrich the local despots, and then move on to greener pastures once the well’s been sucked dry.

This means actually being a member of the United Nations: not just drafting resolutions, but adopting them in good faith, and living by them instead of just forcing everyone else to. Addressing climate change and the global economy as more than simply electoral leverage, and recognizing the multitude of ways in which our actions affect strangers on the other side of the planet.

It means thinking past national security and “peace in our time.” Not thinking in terms of our problems and their problems. Their problems are our problems; there is no parsing that away anymore. If that weren’t the case, the attacks in Paris wouldn’t be making us so nervous right now. We know how easily troubles move about the globe these days. The next step is to accept our responsibility for helping to solve them. Which includes taking in the refugee.

It means rethinking the idea of nationality itself. I’m not saying we should do away with our shared identity as American citizens. But we should not allow our definition of the United States to stand in the way of a united planet. We can be American citizens, and global citizens, at the same time. We simply have to find the will to do it.

I would wager that most people are familiar enough with the cultural meme of the Good Samaritan, so I won’t take the time to explain the whole thing. I’ll just leave you with this thought:

Who is my neighbor? Everyone, everywhere.

As my good friend Russell commented on my previous post, we need to have the courage to do what is right, together, and risk the consequences. It’s the only way to survive the future.

Spread the word:
Open the doors!!!

Open the Doors

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Everyone must understand: you can’t ask for solidarity when there’s a problem and then exempt yourself from doing your duty when there is a solution.

– Francois Hollande

Where do we stand, O Greatest Nation in the World?

In one week (minus change), our citizens will be crowded up against closed doors, gazing wistfully upon what lies beyond, fully prepared to beat the living shit out of one another for the chance to be free…to buy a 60-inch TV at a low, low price. And we (meaning our stuffed-shirt, pansy-ass politicians) will defend that freedom to the bitter end. We will go so far as to redefine “Friday,” which now apparently begins at 6:00 PM on Thursday. Because America stands for nothing if not greed (sorry, “free enterprise”).

Black Friday is always the brunt of hypocritical and futile rants. Not unlike Valentine’s Day at my Southern Baptist alma mater. But, like the angry students at my school, who stopped protesting as soon as they got dates, Black Friday editorializing tends to last about as long as it takes Wal-Mart or Target to open their doors, at which point the editorialists let slip the dogs of war and plunge once more into the breach.

This year ought to be different. This Black Friday has potential, in that it might stand out as more than usually black. While we press our noses against sliding glass doors, begging for a bargain, numberless refugees press their whole lives against our national borders, begging for our help. And unlike the doors at Best Buy, our hearts show little sign of opening. As we ransack the shelves at whichever den of capitalism we frequent, little thought will likely be given to those whose entire worlds have been ransacked around them.

Where do we stand, O Greatest Nation in the World? What price our souls? Have we, at long last, no sense of decency?

Spread the word:
Open the doors!