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China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Archive for December 2007

Peace-Out Pax Americana

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In two weeks I will enter the Junior Republican boot camp that is my grandparents’ house.  I expect them to be as blindingly ignorant and partisan as the day I left.  Because, as I observe the placated applause of the primaries, the U.S. just hasn’t changed.  And it isn’t going to.  And it is proud of it.

Proud of it because they (politicians, presidential candidates, and the public majority) believe in a fabricated historical precendent.  They believe the U.S. is the world hyperpower, the biggest, baddest mofo on Wetsphalian Boulevard.  They walk with a swagger.  They push little kids and old ladies out of their way ‘cuz it’s their fuckin’ sidewalk.

Politicians are fascinatingly talented pipers of pipe dreams.  They write essays with catchy little euphemisms and play up their indoctrination within our glorious governmental system.  For they are politicians, for they are jolly good fellows.  They are the children of our glory.  They invoke the forefathers, whom they claim were the most religious people to walk the earth since Joshua bin Yosef.  They quote Kennedy and Eisenhower.  Over and over and over and over, they hammer home that America won the Cold War.  Lest we forget!

Read Guiliani’s essay on ForeignAffairs.Org describing his inane plan for all of us children of “The 9/11 Generation.”  Enemies.  Enemies.  Death.  Destruction.  Fear.  Black-hearted evil.  We must fight evil.  We must attack our enemies.  We must build a massive military.  Because, as we all know, building huge militaries never ever ever leads to using them.

He breaks down how mutually assured destruction is a faulty notion of the past.  We need missile defense.  Hell, we need fences around our borders.  If we can, each American should build him or herself a portable fence that we can carry around ourselves as we walk down the street.  And we oughta carry a bazooka in case anyone gets near our fuckin’ fence.

Where are people formulating these ideas?  This isn’t The 9/11 Generation.  This is the Why Us Generation.  As in, the idiots who asked that question after 9/11 and those of us suffering with our status because so many lemmings march within the first category.

It is driving me mad!!! Where are the new ideas?  Where are the admittances that, hey, ya know, we made some mistakes.  We had good intentions, but we messed up.  So we tried some things.  Let’s be pragmatic.  Let’s find new solutions.  Try new things.  The past didn’t work, so let’s plant a new seed and grow a new beanstalk, Jack!

For as much as I want to go Wolverine Berserker on each of these candidates, let me be very clear in where I think we have gone wrong:  People don’t like arrogant bullies.  Peons might not step to them with the dukes up, but they’ll talk smack behind a bully’s back and wait for that one glorious moment when they can contribute to making that bully look like an idiot.

We cannot bomb people into submission.  We cannot tromp around in someone’s living room with muddy boots and tell them to clean the shit up.  We are not going to win a War on Terror because a war on terrorism can never be won.  Hello?!?  How do people fail to comprehend this?  Terror is an emotion, just like anger.  It can hide without being seen.  How do you stop people from being angry?  Try to make them happy!  Is that so hard?  You think people in Iraq would be happier seeing an armored Humvee or a new school bus cruising down their streets?

All my time abroad has made it incredibly clear that people might still respect our greenbacks, but they don’t have our backs.  They think we are fools, power mongers.  And they chuckle as we erode our own freedoms in a war to increase freedom.

We need to stop defining people as enemies.  We need to stop fighting preemptive wars.  We need to stop alienating and ostracizing other parts of the world.  And we need to stop thinking we have the right to tell people how to live.

We need to engage people.  That is the one good idea I have heard in the primaries, courtesy of Mr. Obama.  We need to talk to people, like Iran.  How could torturing another country help us reclaim some upperhand in the Middle East?  We need to talk to people, be polite, offer assistance not sanctions.

We need to lead by example.  Republicans don’t think global warming is real.  And the icing on the cake?  They want to base our environmental policies off of what China does.  Wow, wise.

Stop building missiles.  Build schools.  Build clean-energy power infrastructure.  Build water purification systems.  Invest in the kindness of humanity rather than ramping up fear of the worst.  How do people not see this?

Written by Miles

December 12, 2007 at 1:19 pm

More Steps to Go

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It is interesting being back on a university campus.  A tacit border between this time and those to come rings campus.  Life pauses, providing a moratorium on decisions and doubts.

In this, there is clarity.  And in this, there is time to consider the environment and the manner in which one lives his life.  When I was younger, admittedly, I took this opportunity for granted.  In place of overachieving in school, I etched great friendships and personal experiences.  Those, I would never relinquish.

Here again, I am offered a new lens, a post-lasik moment of self-observation.  And here is what I have come to see:

I love living abroad.  Though I often loathe the stress it puts on family and relationships, living in a faraway land enables the temporality of time to evince itself.  This sensation normalizes the fleeting cracks in time we all share, allowing, for those who harness it, short moments to become more meaningful.  People are more honest.  People are more open.  Character is worn on the sleeve, and for those who try hiding their tricks, sleeves are not long enough.

There are the triumphs of monotonous daily activities.  Simple tasks become complicated.  One is forced to find circular solutions to previously straightforward problems.  Communication is essential; it is invigorating.  Each day my Chinese grows better, and each day I am more fulfilled by the interactions I share with this country.

There are also the hard lessons to learn.  The dirty truths behind the facade.  Development is a sloppy game.  Players cheat.  Pawns suffer.  The playing field is uneven.  Yet, in all of this, there are lessons and there is hope.  There is inspiration.

All of this has helped me become who I am, in the present.  Perhaps, when I return to the U.S. for the holidays, folks will find alterations from my previous form.  I have taken steps to move closer to whom it is I want to become and the legacy I choose to leave behind.  My conceptions of friendship, nationalism, identity, justice, responsibility, and personal impact have all shifted, grown, and found new meaning.

My process is incomplete, obviously, as all of ours never find distinction until that terminal moment.  My odyssey, my fleeting moments of youth– those I often agonize over, feeling wasteful, feeling distant– deep down I know are being well spent.  I am about to embark on another epic trip, visit many new countries, share new conversations, bring back new stories.  I find these steps to fit my ascent.  After these, it will be those leading to grad school.  Where?  Not sure.  Yet, I know there is more I must learn from an academic standpoint to further my impact on the realities of these communities I have come to care for deeply.

Written by Miles

December 4, 2007 at 9:10 am