Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Friday, June 25, 2004

Talking to Kids

For a few minutes after the second plane hit on 911, Bush talked to some kids.
That probably didn't really change anything, and maybe it was good for him to regroup. It certainly makes him look dumb in Michael Moore's new movie. That's about all I've got on that, except that there is indeed something tremendously powerful and grounding about talking to kids on 911. This is my journal entry from that day. I'm copying it word for word, arrogance hiding uncertainty, misspelling, wrong guesses and all. My 20-20 hindsight is paranthetical. By the way, at the time I was in college observing at a local inner city school. The last part isn't bravado, and sometimes we grow into what we say in public.

"Today the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were struck. My best guess is that this is the work of Osana bin Ladin, an international terrorist and former member of the Mujahadeen, the Afghanistani freedom fighters. This was my first time viewing students in the midst of a national tragedy, and I was given a challenge greater than I have yet received.
Before my arrival at the school I created a brief fact report on what we knkew about the bombing. I had the privelege of attending class with Dr. Mark Ensalaco, an expert on Global Politics. Following class, I "shadowed" Dr. Ensalaco, looking up information and working with him as he prepared his notes to work with Channel 7 as an expert on the tragedy. This afforded me the opportunity to provided teachers at Belmont High School with some information beyond the cope of the available news media.
After presenting this information to my cooperating teacher he did something that I found challenging but exciting. After beginning his class, controlling the classroom, and beginning to address the issues he introduced me as a guest speaker. this was an exciting chance to be on the front lines (my perception being that the front lines of this battle were in the spirit of American kids) restoring fear with vision, hope with despair.
I began the discussion simply, explaining that given the incredible importance of what we were talking about, I was sure they would pay attention. I taugh them for about twenty five minutes, lecturing on the simple topics of the Geogaphy of the Middle East with an emphasis on the separate ethnicities and religous differences, and more importantly that all Muslims were not terrorists. I next gave a brief background of who Osama bin Ladin was, and discussed the goals and methods of terrorism. After this, I took questions concerning the information we discussed, and any other concerns people had.
Some questions were academic, "Why is it that we're bombing Iraq?" Some betrayed impestuous youth "Can't we just bomb the whole middle east" (A young neo-con I guess)Some questions, the ones that snapped me out of the anesthetic distance that my role as "guest-speaker" afforded, came much closer to the fear of the situation, "My brother is in the service, is he going to have to go and fight?" Questions like this forced me to grow as a "teacher." Certainly, I was there to impart enough information that the class did not feel trapped tragically far from the "locus of control" (It's weird, some guys fly airplanes into our buildings, but somehow by knowing a little bit more than that other guy over there we feel somehow safer) but my role was more than that. I was able to provide kids with hope. this is what I said.
"The goal of terrorism is to make us afraid...don't fear. The goal of terrorism is to take you out of your life, to make you accept something less...refuse. Our goal is to challenge you to something greater; courage, hope, and the ability to be a man or a woman rather than a frightened child. It's fine to be scared, don't change who you are."

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

My Wife is Fantastic

My last post I wrote in five minute snippets over a week of business travel.
This post will be written in 2 minutes.
My wife is fantastic.
She is amazing. Beautiful. Smart. Funny.
Have you seen than SNL skit with the two people trapped on the desert island--he gives her seashells and she fabricates a four wheeler?

That's my wife.

I was a dork in college and I would write her sonnets. They weren't very good, but that's not the point. By drawing romance from me she was engaged in a throwdown with my harder half--fighting for my heart. There is something about beauty and grace that grabs a guys heart and challenges him to be strong, to be brave, to be what he was made to be.

The Bible calls Eve a helpmate suitable and since I was raised by a strong, kind of feminist, mom this was a bit fishy to me. "Help mate" sounded a bit like "Inferior."

It turns out that the Hebrew word used is only used elsewhere within the Torah to describe a situation of dire need where God comes through to save someone. That's about right.

That's all I've got...

Monday, June 14, 2004

Boring Stuff About War and Fun Stuff About Hope

While in college I wrote a paper on Global Security Rule Sets.
The study was designed to answer two questions:
1) Are we safer now than we were during the Cold War?
2. Does the world act according to one of the pop theories of the minute (Clash of Civilizations, Neo Balance of Power, Russian Unipolarity, Pure Frickin' Chaos, etc.) or to something else entirely.
The results were clear, empirically sound, and wrong.

My determination was that the two primary determinants of conflict, regardless of the prevailing "World Order" were the stability of the rule of law and the presence of democracy. What I didn't determine was why anyone should give a damn.
Sure--it's nice to not get dissapeared and voting about it is even nicer, but there was nothing to do with my finding.

I read a book recently that hit a switch. There is a big part of the world that hates my country because we are secular and love equality, but also because we're kind of gross in some of our behavior and our pets are fat. So what do you do?

First, you set some rules. We'll hopefully do this by being nice, warm, and friendly. If not that we'll do it by being rich and proving considerable investment in "draining the swamp" that creates problems. If not that we'll do it by being strong.

Next you transition into living in a different type of world. We need to recognize that "Mike" who fixed my Dell was as much from Palm Springs as I am from Bangalore, but that my buddy who's job he took now has another job and "Mike" doesn't work in a sweatshop. That dripping sound is a swamp draining.

The "Big Brother" cameras that filmed Tienamen were made in the USA, a fact that is mentioned with great drama by college professors, what's not mentioned is that China's probaby better off because they trade with us. Of course life is messy, my shoes still cost way less than they should and my friend who is a teacher and missionary in China has to hide her Bible, but history moves slow.

Here's the thing--I've got some hope.
I know a guy who makes lots of money selling soap. He's thinking about making little bits of money working with kids in Africa. I know a guy who just graduated and could be studying anywhere he wants--he's studying Social Justice and hanging out in Honduras. I know a girl who has decided that she can best serve the world by going to Congo. I know a guy who helps establish the Rule of Law in Colombia.
Many of the people who graduate from college around now are going to be wild until their twenty five; get fatter over the following ten years; buy golf shirts; get fatter still; make widgets; sell soap; write reports; pay taxes; be inspired for a few seconds by a movie; have a heart attack; cheer for their kid at a graduation a graduation and a wedding; slow down; speed up; do something they're pround of; die and go to church where people cry briefly.
But I know a guy...
So what does it mean--it means that everything is hard, but some stuff matters enough that good people, the best people, will risk and struggle and hurt for it.
They are.
And that gives me hope.