Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Round-Up #8

Welcome to the Round-Up. Throughout the week, I tweet links to anything unique or funny that I find online, via DWG's Twitter feed, DownWithGT. Then, every week or two - typically on the weekend - I post the 3(ish) most unique or funny tweeted pages. So, without further ado, here, ladies and gentlemen, is the Round-Up #8

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Egypt: History's Great Microcosm and Metphor for US Foreign Policy, and the Impossible Dilemma Therein

At its inception, the United States was a neutral nation. George Washington wanted to see no foreign entanglements because he knew that such arrangements could be disastrous for a country in its infancy. For most of our history, we hewed to this policy as closely as we deemed possible. We avoided what had been the downfall of many great nations and what bankrupted so many of our European cultural allies.

However, when the United States began to find itself with a growing ability to shape the actions of other countries, we began the process of conveniently forgetting the lessons of President Washington. Starting perhaps with Latin America, the United States began brandishing  its newly developed big stick.

Today, our foreign policy is the opposite of what we started with, without equivocation. For both better and worse, we have embedded ourselves in more of the world’s problems than I have time to count. And if we did not already know it, Wikileaks exposed to us our own hubris in expecting the world to accept our involvement. Like the bad aunt in a family comedy, we let our opinion be known - righteously and imperiously.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What's Our Problem?

I am so pissed. America doesn't think anymore. My fellow Americans are not stupid. Perhaps if they were, all this silliness could be excused. I am pissed because my fellow Americans are - increasingly - willfully ignorant.

The stunning ignorance of our elected representatives is on display once again. Representative Michele Bachmann has confidently declared that all of our Founding Fathers were resolutely opposed to slavery and worked tirelessly to end it. This is blatantly false, as many Founding Fathers owned slaves, and the Constitution, albeit for purposes of political compromise, implies that slaves were each 3/5 of a person.

Meanwhile, Sean Hannity invited a radical Muslim cleric onto his show only to shout over the man. Rather than engage a representative of a large and growing segment of the world's population, Mr. Hannity opted to retire to a few simplistic points while his "guest" calmly attempted nuanced argument in support of what could have been interesting points. In a microcosm of the entire interview, the end featured the cleric calmly stating Mr. Hannity was acting immaturely but that he wished for a more substantive conversation in the future. Mr. Hannity called the man a "sick, miserable, evil SOB." Whether this is true or not, who would an impartial viewer sympathize with? For that matter, has the cleric come away with an understanding and respect for an alternative viewpoint?

I find this troubling not because I believe the cleric to be a good man. I haven't the slightest idea, thanks to Mr. Hannity's diatribe poorly masked as an interview. I find this troubling because I could write all day and night about incidences of public figures or officials displaying strikingly stunning ignorance or an apparent allergy to anything accept total agreement with any point s/he makes.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Where I come from, the highest compliment you can pay someone is to say they are down to earth...

I understand why being "down to earth" is a valued trait but I don't understand why it is valued so highly. Being down-to-earth is to be average, slightly uncreative, and largely unadventurous. Why is this not a trait to be accepted pleasantly rather than wished for actively? After all, those who improve our future condition are the opposite of down-to-earth. They have ideas that are derided as fantastical but rather than bring their ideas down to us, they bring us up to their ideas.

Not being down-to-earth is meeting the woman in the red silk dress or the man in the pressed white suit. It is jumping off that cliff and swimming through those curious fish. It is what you have always dreamed of but never risked wishing for.

Those who are the most fun or the most inspiring or the most adventuresome, those we admire as children but sometime learn to forget because ... well, because ... are the ones who left the common world because of all the things we, the down-to-earth, complain about but accept as fact. Accept the world as opinion, and it becomes a much more wondrous place.

So pay me a compliment. Tell me I am not down to earth.

(concluding sentence modified from - and post inspired by - two lines in the superb movie, "The Tourist" (2010))