Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Dirty Dozen

One dozen years.

12 Septembers.

Cloudy ones. Cool ones. Rainy ones. Warm ones. Humid ones. None, quite like that day.

If we are enjoined never to forget, perhaps it is better to say we should remember, because memory works best where it is recalled always, and not left to languish until the page turns on the calendar.


Remember the horror at watching it unfold live, in our homes, our offices, our schools.

Remember the panic, not knowing what was happening.

Remember the confusion, as events unfolded.

Remember the heroes, who drove toward the disaster.

Remember the helpers, who put aside their own fear to help others in need.

Remember the masses, streaming from the city, struggling to get away.

Remember the silence that fell as traffic stopped, trains stopped, people stopped.

Remember the shocking sight of buildings falling, debris flying, and people dying unseen.

Remember the moonscape left behind by clouds of cement.

Remember the frantic attempts to find survivors.

Remember the posters placed on every wall, every street corner, every door, every window, with names and pictures of the missing.

Remember the pile of twisted metal and smoldering rubble.

Remember the months of toil.

Most of all, remember that we came together, as a nation, unified in purpose.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Syria: What To Do?

No choice can be clear. No choice can be definitive. Ultimately, we have no idea how any of the presented scenarios will impact Syria. Even simply remaining outside the problem and ignoring it is fraught with peril, if Syria falls to elements who have the intent of creating a paradise for fanatical & radical elements of Islam. What we're going through with Syria now is akin to situations that have sprung up throughout history, where some nations have had to determine whether intercession in the affairs of another nation were to their betterment or detriment.

This isn't about President Obama, or the partisan split in Washington, D.C., or even about military jingoism and the furtherance of failed Imperialistic policies. It comes down to this: how much do we care about the people of Syria? You can cloak this issue in any talking point you choose, wrap it in discord, fluff it with care & concern, but as each second ticks away, bodies fall. They've been falling steadily for two years. It's Syria's civil war but it's humanity's view of the future: are we willing to accept the wholesale slaughter of a nation by its government?

We're ones to talk. America has its own chemical weapons, America has killed thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions in war. We fought one of the bloodier civil wars in known memory. Where do we get off dictating who can do what to whom?

It's not really that simple, anymore.

Human history is replete with atrocity. Just in the last 100 years, tens of millions have been fed into the meat grinder that is geopolitical conflict and dictatorial overreach. We have now harbored weapons for close to seventy years that have the capacity to eradicate all human life on the planet. We have stood each other off with pointed sticks, cold steel, hot lead, the fiery hearts of stars, the insidious clutches of vile microbes, and the misty smoke of caustic chemicals. We have reached the pinnacle of destructive power. No amount of wishful thinking or eye blinking will make it all go away.

But we live in an unprecedented time, when technology has placed the happenings on our planet in our living rooms in minutes, and given us access to people globally in seconds. What happens anywhere is suddenly accessible at almost any moment, and people who were lines in a newspaper or on a map are now flesh-and-blood before us. Conflict and strife are no longer distant rumblings; the people involved in them are no longer strangers.

If we want peace, we have to make it. Preferably through forbearance, forgiveness, and friendship, but we must also accept that we, as a species, being on the cusp of breaking from the long, gloomy traditions of violence that plague us, cannot always simply toss aside the tools of war. If we must take up arms against a sea of troubles, let those who take them up do so with the noblest intent, despite whatever may have come before. Let a precedent be set that says we will end destructive conflicts with words, with gestures, with diplomacy, where we can, but we will not be afraid to end them as we must.

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent," Isaac Asimov wrote in his novel "Foundation," and it is definitive in its indictment of war mongering as a means to an end. That phrase, however, means more when yours is a society that is no longer locked in the shackles of conflict, when your leverage is not merely at the end of a gun barrel. Right now, we are incompetent, and remain so until we can tamp down the sparks that set alight the conflagrations that engulf races, cultures, countries, and creeds.

So let us choose wisely, but let us choose, and let us know that whatever the choice, there will be consequences and repercussions, unseen and unbidden. People will still die, but perhaps we can pave a better road to peace by showing our resolve to have peace. When it is over, we will bury the dead, ask forgiveness, and move on, as humans always have, hopefully wiser and more resolute not to let it happen again.