Saturday, August 31, 2013

dysfunctional family

When I heard President Obama's speech today I knew what the reaction would be.  If you were an Obama supporter, you would likely be inclined to comment that he is doing what a leader of a democracy should do--ask for the constituents' consent. If you were an Obama detractor, then you are likely to think that the president does not have the spine to make the tough decisions, or that fighting another war is wrong, or something else.

I am certain that had the president announced that we were going to attack Syria, then the supporters would have said making this strong decision from the executive office was the right thing to do and one should not ask the congress for its opinion (democracy be damned), and the detractors--the same people now who are calling Obama spineless for not making the decision unilaterally would be squawking about the absence of consultation.

 As Vonnegut was wont to say, "So it goes."

Later in the day, after I heard the reactions from congress and constituents, I thought of an incident that took place when I was in college after a particularly contentious intramural football game.  An aside here that intramural football at my school was no small potatoes. We did not have a football team at the time, and therefore the players who played in the top intramural league were often high school athletes that had some meat on them.  The rules were barbaric.  No equipment, and you could not tackle--two hand touch, but everything else was like a tackle football game. The line could rush the quarterback as soon as play began, all forms of blocking were legal, you could "two hand touch" a player by essentially plowing into them.  It was tackle without the pads.  The fraternities each had their teams and these games were often huge clashes with more fans watching KB play EEP, then those coming out to follow, for example, the wrestling, swimming, or volleyball teams.

KB had played EEP to a 6-6 tie.  Nobody wanted the tie.  KB had been ahead until near the end of the game when EEP scored.  EEP tried to throw a pass for what would have been the winning extra point, but it was unsuccessful.  Sore, bruised, and unhappy KBers and EEPers trudged back to the cafeteria for dinner.

I, a KB player, happened to sit with a bunch of EEP players for the post game meal. Lots of grousing despite my presence.  "The refs sucked", "Charlie was playing dirty", "Howie was holding on every single play", "You gotta admit, Zeke, Buster is a dirtbag"-- stuff like that was spewing from the EEPers.

At one point a fellow named Curt said, "Goddamn it. We should have tried to pass it in for the extra point instead of trying the damn kick."  Someone notified Curt that EEP did in fact try to pass it in and had not tried the kick. Without missing a beat, still scowling, and without any sense of the humor Curt barked, "Goddamn it. We should have tried to kick the extra point instead of trying the damn pass." (I'm cleaning this up by using the word "damn").

As any leader will tell you, if you recommend x, your detractors are going to scream for y.

Many posts on facebook were related to the president's speech. One was from someone I respect and like very much, but I could not agree with his sentiments.  He contended that what happens in Syria is Syria's business--not ours. Let Syria take care of Syria.  I heard a similar comment today from one of the Democratic congressmen who opposes Obama's position.

What happens in Syria is not just Syria's business.  Think of the world as one big dysfunctional family. Because that is what we are.  Syria is a political construction as is "The United States"  "Great Britain"  "Chad".  Yes, different governments have evolved and borders have been established (unless you slept through high school you know they change quite a bit), but these are arbitrary really, evolving constructions.  Syria is not really a different entity than say, Jordan. Its terrain might be different, leadership might be different, but because it is north and west of Jordan does not make it different. And we are all connected.  What happens in Syria is NOT just Syria's problem for the same reason that what happened in Germany in the 1930s was not just Germany's concern.

Like any family, there are some exasperating siblings.  In some families, some siblings are more than exasperating, they are destructive and can tear apart the relationships of the family.  Let's say your son is beating up his wife.  Do you say it is their problem, not yours. Of course, not. If you have a neighbor who is beating up his kids, should you say it is their problem.  Of course, not.

I've written about this before, but it is worth restating. THERE IS NO THEY.  We are all part of the same family of humans, a dysfunctional family, yes. But we exacerbate problems when we conceive of others as not part of us.

You may not agree that we should use force in Syria, but I think the reasoning behind that argument cannot be that it is their problem.  If Assad is killing little kids with chemical weapons, we cannot turn away commenting that we have our own headaches. This is one of our headaches.

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