• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Friday, March 14, 2008


    the United States of America is an impotent man
    Many of you know me personally, and many more know me via this blog, but few -- I think -- know what I feel passionate about. Conversations I have typically revolve around American politics, Vietnam, medical school, or my new son -- those things that most interest those I associate with here in America.

    However, when I'm by myself, I think and debate with my soul about other things. Over the years, I have become increasingly more libertarian, and I can explain why to any who want to listen. Most don't, so I have never elaborated. One of the core stakes on which I rest this philosophical shift, is my belief in the writings of John Locke.

    It was he, the enlightenment writer, who coined the platform that holds up the scaffolding of our country. His writings were the basis for Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. In other words, John Locke justified the existence of the United States of America.

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ... (Declaration of Independence, 1776)

    Since 1950, China has ruled Tibet. It has not been a nice rule. Most everyone who learned about the Trail of Tears in school (America's forced relocation of Cherokee Indians from Georgia to Oklahoma) was saddened by what I think is now universally seen as a horrible move. China's occupation of Tibet has been the same. Thousands of Tibetans left their traditional homeland to live as refugees in Nepal and India, while the Chinese government forcibly relocated thousands of native Chinese into Tibet in order to "dilute" the population still remaining.

    The Trail of Tears, oil on canvas by Robert Lindneux, 1942; in the Woolaroc Museum, Bartlesville, Okla., U.S. The Granger Collection, New York

    Over the last couple days, to commemorate the failed revolution of 1959, Tibetans have been holding peaceful protests inside and outside Tibet, only to be met with police brutality inside, and forced opposition in India.

    Photograph obtained exclusively by FRANCE 24 shows burned cars in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on March 14.

    ..."— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. ... (Declaration of Independence, 1776)

    The problem with America today is not that we dabble in the affairs of foreign countries, but that we forget our very soul, written in black and white, and ratified July 4, 1776. Instead of worrying about Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel, we should be in Sudan, Burma, and Tibet. If America supported people according to the words with which we justify our existence, instead of trying to mediate squabbles between Jews and Arabs, perhaps we would not be looked down on in the world. Perhaps we would not be seen as hypocritical. Perhaps we wouldn't have terrorist plots.

    ... "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. (Declaration of Independence, 1776)

    The problem with America today is ... that we forget our very soul
    Instead the United States of America is an impotent man, and those peoples who truly need us, whose situations mirror our own just 232 years ago, struggle against odds, alone.

    I encourage everyone to open your eyes. Stop being consumed with your own lives, your worries about where to eat tonight, or what shirt to buy, or why so-and-so at the office is so annoying. I know it's easy, and I get caught up in it too -- only worried about when is the next medical school test -- but awake! Become aware of the travails of your fellow brothers and sisters. Visit sites like Unseen Dharamsala, which chronicle in pictures the lives of Tibetan refugees, or Beijing Wide Open -- the blog of a Tibetan leader of Students for a Free Tibet.

    Help our generation's George Washington and Thomas Jefferson realize the blessings we take for granted.


    Sara said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Sara said...

    I changed my mind and decided to post...

    But what makes America's being in Sudan, Burma, or Tibet, more important than where we are currently focusing our attention? In each of these places, there are two sides in conflict. Be it Arabs and Jews, or Tibetans and Chinese, it's the same to me. Perhaps I'm a tad simplistic--and definitely untutored--in my views about world politics, but I feel that no one people is more deserving of our help than another.

    Unfortunately, though, it's impossible for the US government to help everyone. People the world over have become complacent in being their brother's keeper.

    But, honestly, you had me until the last paragraph. I think we all need a call to repentance, to become less self-absorbed. But, is being aware enough? How does one help? I don't feel that everyone getting behind a cause, a special project so to speak, is healthy for society (I think it creates a feeding frenzy). While some people are inspired and positioned in the right place, at the right time to help out in places like you mentioned, I don't believe everyone is. You said that America has lost its soul...but is our soul really to be found in military/political interests overseas? Was that what's to be deduced from the excepts you included from the Declaration of Independence? Other Americans, our neighbors, our communities, our family members, the people we have stewardship over in our callings--they're all just as deserving of our efforts. President Packer touched upon this when he urged converts to stay in their own country and strengthen the stakes there. I believe that we should strengthen our foundations--that's the little bit libertarian in me--note the lower case "l." (Side note: I thought that libertarians believed in staying out of other country's political entanglements??)

    Anyways, my response is long enough :) I hope I didn't seem harsh--I really DID enjoy your post, and it's something I've been thinking about for a long while myself.

    P.S. Do you talk to Osterhaus much these days?

    Triet said...

    Well, I had a similar conversation with my father around the dinner table tonight.

    It's not that America shouldn't be in Iraq, or Israel, but the reason and the pretence why we're there. America lost credibility throughout the world because we barged into Iraq shouting Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism.

    On the flip side, people in Tibet are calling for us. They want our help for precisely the reason we exist. I feel it is right to enter foreign countries when that's the situation.

    And yes, you called me. I started out saying libertarian, and ended up Neocon. Now ask me how I reconcile this with social darwinism. But it makes sense to me. Our founding fathers were incredibly libertarian. They argued individual rights and individual responsibility.

    I feel John Locke and Thomas Jefferson evinced that with their words. Libertarian thought also wants to avoid entangling alliances, like George Washington admonished.

    However, I feel that America is no longer the new kid on the block. We own the block, and we already have entangling alliances. Therefore, we should use our position as the leader of the block to support similar nation building efforts that we are invited to help. None of this artificial regime changing stuff. That is what I mean by losing our soul. Our soul isn't military, or political interests overseas, but inculcating freedom of thought and person.

    What can we do to support them? Should we focus on America only? I think not. No, you cannot support every cause by running over there, but you can use your voice to bring awareness to the issue. You can write a letter to your leaders asking what their position is on the issue, or why they haven't done more. Especially now that Tibet is in the news, political pressure is very effective.

    If you're financially secure, I support people giving $25 or so to various established causes. But mostly, money talks, and if you don't want to give money, you can always take away money by not buying things that enrich China or companies in bed with China.

    Finally, you can become informed. The first step in everything is learning more about the issue. Education is so vital because your experience and knowledge will pervade your actions in all walks of life, and determine how much you can or want to do with a particular cause, such as a free Tibet.

    Is any of this easy? No, no, no. But if idle hands are the devil's playground, an idle mind is his workshop.

    xanghe said...

    To bounce off of your awesome post, here's an organization that will use your donation well. ADAPT is an org. that offers scholarships and other resources to girls in western Vietnam so that they can become educated and not choose to become prostitutes. I've personally worked with some people who are involved in the organization and they have a great program, where they follow up with each family for several years after the scholarship has been awarded. They also provide bikes for children who live too far from a school to get an education.

    Also, VietACT is another organization that deals with human trafficking. There is a lot of information and links on their website about the trafficking of Vietnamese citizens to work overseas in slave-like conditions.

    These are a few of those quiet, barely-known organizations that provide practical and tangible support to people who really need it.