Tuesday, June 28, 2011

10 Observations of a Capricious Universe

1) Childproof usually means Michaelproof
2) The women in my life usually answer the question they think I should be asking
3) The loudest people are the closest
4) Black licorice remains a mystery to me
5) Jeff Goldblum can dock his laptop with an alien craft (Independence Day), I can't get my printer to communicate with mine
6) The most intuitive people are the least
7) How can fifty different substances in the vending machine all be worth exactly one dollar?
8) I cannot decipher the logic or pattern behind the daily pricing of a two-liter bottle of Coke
9) I fail to understand why, if you let someone out in traffic ahead of you and they don't wave, you are not allowed to ram them
10) I have decided that the greatest of all Hollywood special effects is the one that made Joe Pesci look tough

Monday, June 27, 2011

Orphans


I look at this picture sometimes when I am feeling sorry for myself. This is a group of little girls living in a Muslim orphanage about an hour east of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I spent a very nice afternoon there a few years ago while working with a American philanthropist who was helping poor schools throughout East Africa and Asia. I was doing a site visit, checking on the school that had received educational resources through the foundation and was afforded a tour. I stopped here in their dorm room for about twenty minutes. The young ladies introduced themselves, and then sang me three songs: one in English, one in Swahili, and one in Arabic at my request (translated - We love you Allah). It was hard to leave, but one of them walked me to the gate, holding my hand making sure I found my way back to the Landrover. I think of her and her friends often, not only in my pitiful moods.
All in all, I lived and worked with and in orphanages for more than five years of my life, and I have visited scores more. A funny thing happens when you visit an orphanage, you leave feeling better than you entered. They who have so little can do that for you. However, there is always a hangover.
I don't know if you have ever been in a refugee camp or an orphanage in the third world, but they are far from attractive places. They are stark and bare, often smell of urine and worse things, and are as far away from the comfort you would afford yourself as you could possibly imagine. And as unfriendly as the concrete walls,thread-worn linen, and tattered mattresses can be, the lack of a mother's arms, a father's stern, soft strength makes the place worse than dead, worse than a nightmare populated with cruelties - a place where life ceases or never even begins. Yet these children survive, and become testaments to all that is good and holy in the human spirit, at a terrible, terrible cost. I have been "blessed" with this lesson over and over again, and I loathe the fact I forget it, no matter how temporarily.
I stumbled on my first job in an orphanage in Jamaica as a Peace Corps Volunteer. My primary assignment didn't work out so I was sent to Montego Bay to find something. After talking to several service agencies, I learned about a boy's home on the edge of town, inhabiting an old tourist hotel overlooking the airport. I have chronicled my fortuitous job interview elsewhere, and I did end up working there for a year as the full-time teacher, and another year as a PE instructor and occasional field trip supervisor. I don't remember what I taught them or where I took them, but I remember their faces twenty five years later, and am saddled with the loss that I didn't hug or hold them as I should have. No one did, the matrons were decent women, but were overworked and underpaid, and struggled with their own survival issues. The occasional slap or spanking, or knuckle sandwich provided by an older peer were what passed for physical intimacy at the Fairmont Boy's Home. The boys were friendly and good-natured, but I knew there was a toll for this deficit of love. And in two years, I saw some beautiful smiles fade gradually, and I could do nothing to resurrect that bit of their humanity, nothing.
After a year's sabbatical back in the states, I returned to the Peace Corps and spent two years living and working in an Eritrean refugee camp on the shores of the Red Sea in Yemen. In training, I learned of the camp and did everything I could, lobbying to be assigned in the nearby village of Khawkha. It was in the Tihama, the narrow coastal region of North Yemen: hot, harsh, and humid. The Ministry of Education balked at first, not wanting to send any westerners into that climate, least of all to a small village with poor electric and other basic services. Though, with the help of a few wonderful Peace Corp Yemeni staff, we eventually secured permission and I was off to one of the hottest, remote places in the Arabian gulf.
The refugees were Muslims from the southern tip of Eritrea, a small minority of Afar speaking tribes. I helped another volunteer build a school in the camp, and was allowed to move into one of the small shacks previously occupied by the camp doctor (another story - see "Where There is no Doctor"). I stayed there the first year, and lived in an eight foot by eight foot tent the second year. I had the benefit of a year's reflection on my first experience in Jamaica, and was resolved to do things differently on this trip. I did do things differently, had a wonderful and heartbreaking time, contracted malaria three times, and left the camp with jaundiced eyes and a mild case of hepatitis.
I knew from the beginning that hygiene was going to be a problem. There was no running water in the camp, no toilet paper, not even a bathroom facility - there were trees a half-mile away in the day time, and a sandy, rocky plain next door at night. The kids played all day in dirt, and as there was no washroom let alone the sign admonishing us to wash our hands afterwards, things were sometimes messy. When the children came into my shack each night to hear music or play with my long (then brown) hair, I knew what was on their hands, knew where they had been. I played with them, taught them, laughed with them, cried sometimes, and gave more of myself to these children than anyone previously in my life. We sang songs at night, drawing pictures in the sand, and they all learned how to spell M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i in the dirt (I had a fairly stunted musical repertoire). They laughed until they cried when I showed them how to jump rope in my Tihama skirt, and they astounded me with their patience as they shared the few pieces of chalk I could spirit away from the village school. I made the girls earrings from seashells and a generous donation of components from a sweet young woman at the Claire's Boutique in South Bend, Indiana who thought I was cute (another story).
I know I was a queer spectacle for the adults who were pretty much split down the middle in their regard for me. Half thought I was crazy but kind, the other half despised me for breaching the established distance of adulthood. I didn't care, I was determined to make sure that these children had access to me, and that I learned to hug and love in the process. It was a good lesson for me, and I wish I could have retained it better, longer. There are times I wonder if I have made my own daughters half-orphans at least, doing a much worse job loving them than those children a lifetime ago, but I am working on it now. As for the kids in the camp, I try not to think of their faces now at night, for the warm smile produced is inevitably defeated by the cold cruel prospect of their eventual fate.
I travelled thousands of miles to find my concept of dignity in the desert dirt. These people, orphans, children and parents, showed me what was human - having been stripped of most everything the rest of us regard and lust after. Their simple sense of truth, endless compassion, and ability to face each day with strength and humor taught me what is valuable. I sorrows me that this wealth is assailed daily by neglect, disease, and apathy in thousands of such places every day, even today. How many children still face the day without a hug, without a smile, without a pair of pardoning arms to forgive or fix anything? Too many for me to feel very good for too long.
I still work with refugees and orphans, largely through teacher training initiatives. I don't often get into camps, and I never get to jump rope or spell funny sounding state names in the dirt anymore. But there is a legacy - I work a lot on the concept of student engagement, helping teachers help students find their voices. I talk a great deal about praise and acknowledgment, much more than classroom management and discipline. I know the difference these teachers can have with a kind word, a gentle pat on a shoulder. I try to do the same for them, these wonderful professionals who labor day in and day out in these places I find so dehumanizing, giving their students and children love and hope in the guise of a simple education. I envy them, and wish my five years had been fifty.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Politics: The Distillation of Isms

The most luscious application of hate is public and it is loud. It is a declaration of power, and is unadulterated by any need for reason or equity. It needs only a thin veneer of anonymity or generalization to distinguish itself from thuggery and vicious malice. And, in most cases, deftly sidesteps the obvious scrutiny that dares to inquire as to its etiology - not a reflection projected in defense of an outer obscenity but the bitter resonance of an inner mephitic decay. Sadly it seems, as a species, we need this luxury to hate and to languish in it amidst footlights.
In my lifetime, I have seen the arena for this malevolent play shift from faceless foes in war, to disenfranchised groups, to rival teams, and finally to the dichotomous rift our kind call politics.
I remember my youthful naivete almost willing to root for the gooks and slopeheads not for my sense of their virtue or cause, but my honest disdain for the cruel curled snarls of those who pronounced these epithets with such vituperative pleasure. I hadn't yet met anyone from Vietnam, and had no way of understanding whether or not they deserved my hatred, I just learned early on that the sources spewing this propaganda hadn't impressed me in their other professed areas of expertise. As a child of violence, I intuitively knew where this ugliness came from, and it wasn't half a world away - it was buried deeply in the chests of the adults gloating noisly with impunity in my presence, I saw it clearly on their faces.
I remember the Polish jokes, the Black jokes, the Blonde jokes, and a thousand others aimed passionately at a group either not directly present, or yet to be allowed to square off fairly with the bully in the room. Again, it was the cruelty scribed across the faces, the subtle incongruity of the contrived smile and snide context. I did not have to wait to learn about low self-esteem and insecurity in my college psychology class, the humor of my elders enlightened me.
As a male, I inherited "my teams" from my step-father, grandfather, and my geography. Logically, not a very cogent excuse to assign the closest thing to love that I owned at the time. I lived and died with my teams, I never hated their foes, but I did get angry at them when they prevailed. They were the enemies for 48 to 60 minutes depending on the league, but no longer. I never rooted against a rival in other engagements, or took pleasure in their misfortune. I never felt the need to curse, hurl projectiles at, or to make death threats to their players (let alone their family members). I never felt like burning something in the street after a win or loss, and I somehow failed to develop the American virtues of internalizing the "heroic" deeds of my sports idols and rationalizing away their defects. At worst though, I was mildly bemused by the vehement vitriol produced against athletes, coaches, cities, and fans of opposing sides. Perhaps I was a poor fan. I did notice however, the unabashed hatred directed in these largely meaningless fracases. Once again, I sensed an intrinsic malady publicly exalted, deemed innocuous by a society racked in violence and hatred. Hatred is good, I guess, in the right places, not at the wrong faces.
I have a private theory that the appeal and futile and puerile functions of sport have drifted directly to the camp of politics, in part due to the advent of free agency. I remember my teams as groups of guys, not an emblem on a city's franchise. I loved the "team" not the landlord. It is hard for me to cheer on a temporal amalgamation of spoiled and selfish athletes. Heck, you can't even count on four years anymore out of your collegiate luminaries. So if you are not engaged to a city (really one or more really rich white guys), what do you do? You may choose to focus your fealty on a political party - there are only really two, yet they yield a a plethora of contests, a profusion of public engagements(elections, debates, forums, innumerable media frays). And the good news, your guys (and gals) seldom switch sides. They are yours forever! Or until a fan of the other team shoots them in the head.
This partisan contrivance we have constructed is the perfect vehicle to showcase our brazen expressions of hatred. Just listen to the tone, watch that lip curl, notice the smug self-righteousness of the detractor. Turn the volume off, and you may not be able to differentiate the monikers of the targets: Democrat, Republican, Jew, Nigger, Liberal, Conservative, Towel Head, Spic, etc, etc, etc. Political dialogue has all the hallmarks of hate speech, without the ism marking it out of bounds. From the flat and unilateral illusion of consensus on either side, to the remarkably unambiguous derision leveled at all things other. I marvel at grownups who have developed the ability to believe that two entities can be so permanently polar, so pedantically right and wrong, wrong and right, blue and red. Yet this playground might just be the last refuge for our inner ugliness, our need to disparage, denigrate, deprecate, deride, and decry openly and proudly. Our pride is now measured by our propensity to hate successfully - just not at the wrong people or the wrong groups. Is it any wonder that our society mourns the proliferation of bullying in our schools? Perhaps our children just haven't learned the etiquette and sportsmanship of hating yet.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Benign Reproach of Neglect

I invented neglect I think, I must have because I was never neglected myself. The attention I was afforded as a child was far from healthy, but it was never absent. How then did I learn this terrible tool that I wield on most everyone in my universe? I am sure it is some form of selfishness, but lately I am having a hard time finding the selfish spoils of this vocation of mine. Instead, an empty and pathetic man looks back at a history of disaffection and indifference written on the hearts of those who endeavored to love him.
Don't be too hasty and dismiss this as some sort of plaintive overture designed to engender pity or compunctive solace - truthfully, there are probably other posts on this blog manufactured more closely to that intent - consider this instead the cumulative consequence of the artful eschewal of all things painful, guilt-inducing, and remorseful. The ultimate neglect of my own conscience.
Unlike a sociopath, I do feel, I just repel easily. My great strength, I thought, was my ability to bury the guilt of my deeds deep and darkly in the anonymity of yesterday. And for nearly twenty years of my life, I had the spectre of alcohol to rationalize this internment, along with an unfortunate conception of Nietzsche's Ubermensch for good measure. Neglect in lieu of post mortem - no wonder I never considered my past and its possessions any portent to my future. A future that has now arrived unceremoniously with the vengeance of a neglected dream.
It is not my neglect of my actions or general ethics that troubles me now, but the neglect of those who love/d me throughout my half-century. For this sin, my greatest, was my benign neglect. I did not wish to hurt my family and friends, nor did I want them too close to what I probably suspected would have repelled them eventually - whoever, whatever I am. Constant motion prohibits a clean snapshot, and I was always moving - here to there, working harder, longer, never retreating, never apologizing, cloaked by the societal indulgence "workaholic." The nom de guerre by the way for most inadequate, self-loathing men my age or older.
So now, here I am neck-deep in this self prescribed self examination wondering at the fact that I am still here, somewhat successful, not totally depressed or suicidal. A lifetime of deflection creates a sort of clinical ability to evaulate anything, including yourself. My conclusion: I have no idea who I really am, nor do I care as much as I probably should. Instead, I know what I want to be, and that is far more valuable to me. I can take the scraps and remnants of my accidentally accumulated virtues and build the life I want, including the promise of contrite ingress for any of those loved ones stubborn enough to try again. I figure I have a good quarter of a century left for this project. Sounds reasonable.

Alcoholics, Divas, and Other Moody People


Ever see that episode of the Twilight Zone where a family is held hostage by a little boy with psychic and telekinetic powers? I think it was Billy Mumy of Lost in Space fame, anyway the family was terrified of the boy and tried to appease him constantly, fearing violent reprisals. That was my life from age five to seventeen, except I wasn't that little boy, my bane was a six foot tall, two hundred-seventy pound giant and his powers weren't psychic, they were physical.
My step-father was a violent man, even more so when he was drunk, and he drank most every day of his life. He was a union electrician, and could find work whenever he needed to. Life was good in the mornings and afternoons - he was gone. It was that time between 5pm and 1am that I dreaded. If he came home right after work, he would be in a bad mood, but he would be sober and I could usually avoid him. But if he was late, he was drinking, and good or bad mood, I would pay. A buoyant mood meant a family meeting in the middle of the night that had a fifty-fifty chance of ending in some kind of slap. A bad mood often meant broken furniture and an escape out into the yard as the neighbors ducked from their windows, switching off their lights. The best we could hope for was that he would pass out early. I suppose I replayed this gambol four thousand times before I left home at seventeen.
I have discussed this in other posts, so I won't go into further detail about those dreadful hours, other than to examine a singular lesson I learned from my step-father and a few other people in my life: I won't pander to moody people, desperately praying for positive affection. If you are moody, I will pick the mood that suits me and treat you accordingly. That usually translates to "you are a jerk and I will ignore you, nice or not"
Sadly, I have seen an increase in the number of ill-mannered people in my universe. I call it the "Diva Effect" whereby the reward for their talent, hard work, or sheer luck is to treat the rest of us like we are dirt. Vain, shallow, and capricious behavior reign, and they would have us scramble and grovel for the few morsels of decency they can conjure up each day. I am not so mystified that these people exist as they do, but I am mortified at the number of young people that lust after the same status.
I think the need to treat others in this fashion is just the manifestation of inner cruelty let loose by an indolent society. People that tolerate these folk do so secretly hoping they can be transformed as well into solipsistic creatures navigating their days like regal ogres feeding on the weak, secretly despising themselves. For how could they love this inner ugliness? This petulant pettiness?
And if they haven't been elevated to official diva status by society, they will turn inward into their own environment and find minions and sycophants even more self-despising upon whom to wield their odious whims. This audience is sadly populated by children, outcasts, and people with no where else to go.
I have found that when I show no interest in these people, they tend to be nicer to me for a bit - that period of time where they hope to draw me in to inevitably hurt me in direct proportion to my disdain for them. This doesn't happen, as I just don't relent, for as tempting as it might be to gain affection from these trolls, I remind myself of all the others they hurt and the need to gain exclusive favor, temporal as it might be, evaporates into pity for these would be tyrants.
I watch tv sometimes and wonder why there is such a market for conflict and animosity, and how pitiful, ugly creatures come to occupy center stage. The stooges on the stage of Jerry Springer don't bother me (after all, they are just chasing their Warholian prophecy), it is the audience near and far that frightens me. Perhaps it was my 35,000 hours of "reality" that makes tv so repugnant. I just cannot figure out what it was that I missed from that experience that so much of the world finds fascinating.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Back to Zero


Back to zero - Kuhn's paradigm effect - an alcoholic's legacy. Back to zero conjures a lot of possiblity, as well as a great deal of angst. Imagine the ability to start over again: promising if you have made mistakes, threatening if you have built something over time.
I learned about the concept of back to zero the hard way. Living in an alcoholic, dysfunctional household, this was our mantra. No matter what happened the night before, we could not discuss it the next day. It had to be ignored. The broken chair, the baked potato smeared all over the kitchen wall, my bleeding lip, anything created in the melee of the previous evening was untouchable, verboten. Don't mistake this for forgiveness, for that is a process - this was just a mechanism to push a broken family through the next day, day after day.
But something about that distorted reality has stuck with me. I find myself willing to let things go very rapidly. I won't forget them, but if the dynamic ceases, I will let go of the negative feelings they engendered. Some of you who know me might pause here and protest, but I would reassert that if a transgression is not repeated, I will get over it. If it occurs over and over again, I will not ignore it. The past isn't the past until it is over. There are times when a certain context reminds me of old injury, and I will discuss it, but without the pain and bitterness of the original event. This has served me well, as I have had my share of battles, and have reconciled many of them to mutual benefit. I truly do not want an ongoing war with anyone. I don't have the energy.
The second connotation of the phrase back to zero is also very pertinent to me. Thomas Kuhn said that when a paradigm shifts, everyone goes back to zero, i.e., expertise, knowledge, power all disappear and everyone is on equal footing. Pretty easy to see why many people do not like change. I attended more than fifteen schools before I graduated from high school - back to zero was my way of life. I learned early on that I could attempt to reinvent myself, after all, no one knew me at these new schools. However, not having made any substantive changes, my true self always emerged, even on short stops. I did learn instead how to establish myself in new settings, a skill that has served me well in my consulting career.
Finally, back to zero taught me to develop enduring, flexible skills, not just a static knowledge set. The world has changed so dramatically around me - the list of technology developed in the past thirty years alone is staggering. I couldn't imagine putting up walls around myself or my intellect and trying to keep the world at bay. Subsequently, I have loved each age I have lived, and there have been many, and there will be many more. The world will keep changing, and I will change with it - One positive legacy of the alcoholic anomie of my youth.

Leadership Axiom #3

Patterns not Attributions
As a supervisor, I am often required to evaluate employees, occasionally with serious consequences. Over the years, I have evaluated hundreds of employees and I have learned a few valuable lessons. First and foremost, I have discovered that you can objectively point out patterns in others behaviors, but it doesn't behoove you to tell them why those patterns occurred.
Sometimes, as supervisors, we are tempted to deal with why people do what they do (the attributions) in order to help them continue or stop the behaviors. I have even seen some administrators who take great pride in this sort of analysis, almost as if the gift of supervision is truly, as the name suggests, "sight from above." I find this vain and dangerous, not from my own successes and failures as a supervisor, but from the incorrect projections of a few of my former bosses. There is nothing worse than being told "why" you did something wrong - whether the provided attribution was correct or not.
I am not sure if this type of clairvoyance is useful anyway. I think the notion that supervision includes this type of hyper-ability is somewhat pedantic. It should be enough that one can detect and isolate appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, particularly those that are consistent. A good supervisor should know the mission and goals of her organization, and then be able to evaluate the performance of the people she supervises in that shared context. Nothing is more powerful than a pattern, and patterns (good and bad) are often undeniable. When I recognize a pattern in someone's behavior, that becomes a primary evaluation point - not the reason behind it.
For the purposes of this discussion, I will focus on dealing with negative patterns in employee evaluations and how to manage the subsequent discussions. First, a good supervisor never reveals these issues in a summative evaluation (e.g., an end of the year performance appraisal) - this is not the first time an employee should hear about the issue, especially given that it has become a pattern. When negative feedback arises, the supervisor should always share the information with the employee. Often, it will be an anomaly, and either the feedback arose from a misunderstanding which can be addressed, or the employee armed with the information will ameliorate the valid concern. But without the information, even the erroneous feedback from a misunderstanding will lead to further issues, and the employee will have no chance to deal with legitimate problems. Nothing feels more like a betrayal than being made aware of complaints and issues long after they materialize.
Consistent feedback is a very powerful tool to use with an employee, whether the employee admits responsibility for it or not. These issues become patterns that are unacceptable for any reason. The task of the supervisor and employee becomes to end the pattern regardless of the cause. I will provide an example that I have dealt with on a few occasions working in an urban educational setting - that of conflict between White female teachers and African-American female students.
In each instance, I suppose I could have come to the conclusion that either the teacher was a racist, or that the student was being far too sensitive maybe even playing the race card for personal gain. I also realized that dealing with the issue, even raising it would provoke such accusations on the part of the teacher. In each instance, I began the discussion reminding the instructor of the repeated issues, and the pattern they indicated. I then asked the instructor why she thought those students reacted the way they did, letting her provide the attribution. After some discussion and reassurance that I wasn't labeling her as a racist, we got down to some useful information. It seemed that the friction occurred over what the instructor believed to be her "rigorous standards." The initial reaction to this was usually a declaration by the instructor that she "wasn't about to lower her standards" for anyone. At this point I would inevitably add that no matter what the cause, the school could not afford this pattern. It was a harsh admonition, but it got her attention. This is where we would get to work. I would remind her I believed she wasn't a racist, but also that there were other instructors who had similar standards that were not experiencing the same reactions from this group of students. Given these two stipulations, I suggested a new attribution - I asserted that the instructor did have the right to have high expectations of her class, but also that she needed to convey to them that she cared about them in proportion to her demands. Perhaps they weren't getting this, that she cared for them, because I believe she did. This became the issue at hand - pushing the students while letting them know she cared about them. My favorite aphorism became "you can beat the heck out of them if they know you care about them." We then got about the business of showing students this concern, at which point I shared some strategies that might help, many from their equally demanding peers.
In all instances except one, we were able to improve the dynamics of the class. In each case, I had listened to teacher and student alike, had let the teacher describe the issue, and then found some common ground to create or find an attribution that had promise. I am not saying it was easy, but it allowed us to avoid some threatening avenues that would have yielded no results. I truly admired those teachers who took the feedback and made honest adjustments. I would like to think I have done the same, and looking back, I was able to do so when the feedback was offered to me honestly, and did not threaten the core of my integrity.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Support Terrorism

Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
--FBI Definition

When I read this, it struck me so vividly why the US staunchly refuses to declare any action of Israel as illegal. To do so would be to denounce it as a terrorist state. Time after time, the US is the sole dissenter on the UN Security Council when it comes to critique of Israeli actions. In essence then, we the people of the US, define what is legal and illegal, therefore what is a terrorist action and what is not. In a very thinly veiled defense, the best we (the US) could do was create the Negroponte Doctrine, whereby we refuse to endorse any sanction of Israel that does not also include a reference to Palestinian terrorist groups. Somewhat less than brilliant, it basically adds the adolescent grouse that any action is a relevant, justified reaction. Just like a 13 year old, Israel cannot conceptualize the possibility that their actions are proactive and unjust, and therefore believe it is unfair to be criticized. Even if there is no attributable cause, injury can be abjured with the specter of future danger abated. And worse, we accept this moral relativity not as a logical consequence, but because of the dissonance its denial would produce – imagine the war on terror if Israel becomes a foe. This cannot happen, therefore Israel cannot be a terrorist state, therefore Israel cannot execute illegal actions against the people of Palestine. Simple really.
I have come to the conclusion that I am a terrorist – or at the very least, that I support terrorism. In my opinion, many of Israel’s operations constitute the FBI definition of terrorism, whether or not our administration recognizes the fact. My government supports Israel, therefore I support Israel. I am not a Dixie Chick, I cannot declare that the President of the United States is not my president, nor can I renounce my government while remaining inside its purview. So, I guess to this point, I have been a somnambulent terrorist at the very least.
Now, to this issue of waking up - I am aware that I am an active participant in terrorist activities, what to do? Can I stand up like my liberal friends and shake my fist at the rest of my community, pedantically ranting about its ignorance? Should I bury my head back in the sand this time knowing where it is, and the consequences of my blindness? Can I immerse myself in politics and picket and protest? How do I know when I can rightfully place my head on my pillow at night and truly sleep? What to do, what to do?
Instead of worrying about what to do now that I am awake (if I really am, another philosophic discussion), I have been wondering how one endeavors to wake others. Through self-righteous indignation, protest, education, media, blogs, etc.? Do those methods work? Or are they like other forms of vain diplomacy that take decades while innocent people suffer and die? Do we need to be woken up gently, like the sleepwalker you dare not startle? Do we deserve to be left to our slumber, even when the dream within the dream starts to reveal troublesome inconsistencies? For if we wake to the reality that we have killed innocent people, children would that bring a new meaning to the term “night terror?” Can we choose to ignore the consequences of our luxurious languor? Is there a price?
I wonder now if some terrorists are not monsters at all, maybe just zealots intent on making other people wake up, anyway they can. Please do not mistake these musings as any type of justification or support for violent actions. But I have learned that certain behaviors (or willful oversight of behaviors) often carry consequences, deserved or otherwise. I wonder if we ever think about children in other places and whether or not they are to be accorded the rights we hold so dear and so close to our American hearts. Are these rights only for Americans? I wonder if we ever think about the Spencerian distinction of patriotism whereby we love our country rather than hating all others. Is the terror we feel the direct result of the heinous violence directed at us, or the possibility of rousing to our own culpability? I do not connect the two, morally or logically, but I understand the frustrated compulsion to do so, particularly when every other form of remedy has failed or been ignored.
I am a terrorist who despises terrorists. Where do I go?