I Weep But There is Hope

It seems there is more and more evil in the world. The recent tragedies in Sweden and Syria have broken my heart. As always, my heartbreak and I am confused.

The death of innocents. The destruction of homes. The sorrow of losses.

The blood of children. The tears of the fearful. The questions from all.

At times it feels like there is no way to avoid evil. You begin to despair that terror will become all consuming. Good news and happy stories are few and far between. Images of the dead and suffering bring you to tears as you wrestle with your beliefs in your heart.

But please remember this: “Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear.”*

Yes, there is terror. Yes, there is despondency but there is also hope.

Hope in the way we receive those around us. Hope in the love and prayers we send to those affected by terrible acts. Hope that there are people fighting for good even if it feels like the good is a tiny spark in the middle of a forest fire.

So though I am sorrowful, though I will weep for the dead and those suffering, I choose to hope.

I choose to believe love always wins.


*Spoken by President Snow in the film The Hunger Games.

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Politics

I don’t usually write about politics on this blog. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion; I actually have a lot of opinions. But I find political discussions quickly dovetail into easy jabs at someone you don’t like or disrespectful exchanges between parties who are convinced they are in the right.

However, I’ve found myself in a few situations the past few months feeling the need to defend myself as an American when I’m in certain circles. There have been a number of events (the situation in Ferguson probably being the most prominent) where I’ve very much felt not proud of my country.

I realize that I am not an ambassador or diplomat. I am, however, some people’s view into America and what it’s like. I feel a sense of responsibility to portray America in a truthful manner but also to be critical of areas where the U.S. government is not doing a very good job.

The State of the Union Address highlighted several places where the US government is failing. President Obama has made a lot of promises in recent months and taken actions that some could be considered unconstitutional. He has delivered on very few of his promises and when he has it has been at the expense of either the people or the fiscal welfare of the nation.

I am also aware I am not a politician and as much as I try to stay informed about what is going on, I don’t have all the facts. Even if I did, I wouldn’t be in a position to make policy changes.

What I do have is the rights of a citizen. I have the right to vote in order to make my voice heard. But I also believe that my right to vote comes with a responsibility to research and try to understand what is going on in America. If you want to be part of the democratic process, you have to be informed and think critically.

I don’t think I’m going to start writing a lot of political pieces. But I do think I’ve come to a place as a writer where I don’t feel I have to censor my opinions for fear of offending people or giving the wrong impression.

I’m a writer and I write what I want to write.

Ferguson

I have wanted to write about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri and the events that took place in the wake of the indictment verdict. But I have struggled with how to approach it.

I want to make it clear that I do not know everything about the Ferguson situation. I read news articles on BBC and the NY Times to get a general understanding of a) what happened and b) what are the major issues and themes currently being discussed and debated.

I am not an expert in politics, cultural anthropology, or any other field of study relevant to this situation. I think you could read every article in the world about what is going on in the United States as a result of the events in Ferguson, and you would still not be an “expert” on what happened.

Because the only two people who know definitively what happened are Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson and unfortunately, one of them is not alive to speak for himself.

We as the general public only know what happened based on first hand accounts from those involved and witnesses, who have their own set of biases, prejudices, and opinions. Everything the witnesses have said–in fact any opinion we express–is tinted by their individual’s world view.

Having said all of this, I have a few thoughts. The first being, there has been an enormous assumption about the grand jury. It’s important to remember that none of us was in that court room while the grand jury was in session. There were some major differences between this grand jury and others that have preceded it but those changes are not the responsibility of the public. That responsibility lies with judges and elected leaders. But regardless of how you feel about the proceedings and how they were established, you were not in that room listening to testimonies and evidence. The opinions we have each formed are based on second and third hand accounts and reports.

Secondly, I believe a lot of the violence that sprang up before and after the verdict was committed by people looking for a reason to instigate unrest. While many have criticized the use of force by the police and the National Guard, I believe it was an appropriate response given the level of violence that occurred in some cities.

I applaud those who chose to partake in peaceful protests. I think it is the appropriate way to express your first amendment rights.

Lastly, I believe the discussion of racism and racial equality in America needs to community based. You cannot discuss racial inequality outside the context of the culture and society that you live in. There is a lot of talk about equality and changes toward eradicating discrimination on the political and national level. However, the ideals of the policy makers often do not match up with the reality of people’s everyday lives. Inequality is an unfortunate status quo but one that we must all strive against.

Change happens when we are willing to sit down and hear the stories of those who are different from us because in doing so, we find out we have more in common with each other than we believed.

I hope and pray in the days and weeks to come, we have intelligent and gracious conversations about our differences. I hope we remember we are all just people trying our best to make the most of the lives we have.

The Hunger Games and Thailand

The us21thailand-master675e of The Hunger Game’s three fingered salute by Thai protesters can be viewed in a number of ways. To me, it’s an amazing instance of where art is inspiring society not necessarily because of the film’s success but because the themes of The Hunger Games are relevant to today’s socio-political culture.

Protesters began using the salute  a few weeks after a military coup “clamped down on all forms of protest, censored the country’s news media, limited the right to public assembly and arrested critics and opponents”. At the opening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I, five individuals were arrested for using the salute.*

In an article for The Wire, Danielle Wiener-Bronner wrote the following: “In the Hunger Games series, the three-fingered salute is used to show solidarity against an dystopian government which forces children to compete to the death in televised events. In Thailand, the salute — along with the phrase”liberty, brotherhood and equality,” taken from the real French Revolution — seems to have been adopted to show solidarity against an unlawful, military-led government.”**

I am not writing this post just because I am a fan of The Hunger Games. I think that would be an incredibly naive perspective from which to comment on.

I am supporting these people–and others like them–because I have seen first hand the affect of government (military or otherwise) policies and socio-cultural atmospheres negatively affect the daily lives of people. Minority groups in China treated as lower class; the under privileged being oppressed; blue collar workers being underpaid for long, demanding hours.

I am not suggesting every person who lives under these circumstances are intentionally displaying signs of what can be called learned helplessness. What I am saying is they should not even have to feel inferior, underprivileged, or out of place.

I realize any discussions about equality are idealistic. Unfortunately, we live in a world that tends to crush ideals. War, terrorism, disease–the list goes on and on. I think people want the world to change but we are overwhelmed by the size and scope and immensity of the problems that are in front of us.

As a king in Middle Earth said, “So much death. What can man do against such reckless hate?”

I believe we make a choice. We choose to believe there is still good in the world. And we fight for it even when–or maybe especially–when the entire world is standing in our way.

So if standing with Thai citizens and raising three fingers inspires and encourages them I do it gladly even if it is only through this one post among millions.


*http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/21/world/asia/thailand-protesters-hunger-games-salute.html

**http://www.thewire.com/global/2014/06/thai-protesters-inspired-by-the-hunger-games-junta-responds-like-movie-villain/372054/