SOCIAL VOX

My thoughts on the world around me

Major Changes Depend on Little Details

President Barack Obama knows that if he wants to improve relations between the United States and the Muslim world, he will have to focus on the details. On Day 2 of his presidency, Obama made a statement by visiting the State Department.

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February 1, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Obama's First 100 Days, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Speech for Then and Now

Over the past few days, I have blogged on matters that have troubled me deeply: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the United States’ response in the Middle East, and the rampant corruption within our own political structure.

In moments like this, I turn to art. Somehow, art has a revitalizing, redeeming quality. It reminds me that there is goodness in the world, or that, at the very least, there is hope for it. It inspires me to participate; to lend a hand to those who need it, to smile at those who have seen darker days than I.

Here is Charlie Chaplin’s speech at the end of “The Great Dictator.” Though this is a film from 1940, it is as timely now as it was then.

“We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in…

Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want…

Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind…

We think too much and feel too little…

More than machinery we need humanity…

More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness…

Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.”

January 6, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film, Foreign Policy, Politics, Protests | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Richardson Withdraws Bid, Possible “Pay-to-Play” Scandal

Richardson withdraws bid to be commerce secretary – Yahoo! News.

Man, Obama just can’t catch a break. Multiple bailouts, the corruption scandal in Illinois (we still really don’t know the extent of his transition staff’s involvement), the Israeli-Palestinian escalating conflict, and now Bill Richardson’s possible “pay-to-play” situation — all before he even takes office.

It seems a California-based company that contributed to Richardson’s political activities was later granted a state contract worth over $1 billion.

Secretary of Commerce was a mere consolation prize for Mr. Richardson, at one time thought to be the next Secretary of State. Now, that’s all a moot point. Mr. Richardson has withdrawn his candidacy so that the new administration doesn’t “delay for one day the important work that needs to be done.”

Mr. Richardson, I hope you and your staff have some good attorneys.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | Law, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Protesters glued inside BBC HQ

If the media is to be objective, it should show the different sides of any argument. Here, the protesters contend that the BBC is offering a one-sided, pro-Israel angle.

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One thing I found interesting was how the woman called for the BBC to give equal coverage to Palestinian government officials. Isn’t Hamas the leading political party in Palestine (In January 2006, Hamas took 76 of 132 seats in the Palestinian parliamentary elections)? Hamas…the known terrorist organization? In essence, then, the woman is calling for BBC to share the limelight between Israel and Hamas.

Should the BBC air whatever Hamas has to say? There does seem to be something inherently wrong with handing the podium over to a terrorist organization whenever it feels like spouting off its religious/political agenda. As far as the western media is concerned, wouldn’t it be enabling or legitimizing the organization were it to chronicle every spoken word or action?

My feeling is that, even though the Palestinians have democratically given Hamas the right to speak on their behalf, Hamas should not be entitled to equal air time.

January 1, 2009 Posted by | Law, Media, Politics, Protests | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Israeli Missile Attacks on Gaza

This video gives a sense of the horrors currently transpiring in Gaza (WARNING: some images may be too disturbing for some viewers):

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The most shocking image for me was the Palestinian policeman, presumably praying as he met his end. Watching him, I was reminded of two things: José Martí ‘s poem, “Cultivo una Rosa Blanca,” and the final scene in the film, “All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).”

In the poem, José Martí writes, “Cultivo una rosa blanca…para el amigo sincero que me da su mano franca. Y para el cruel que me arranca el corazón con que vivo…cultivo la rosa blanca.” Martí’s message is that one should cultivate a white rose, a symbol of purity and innocence, for both friend and foe. Martí, a prominent thinker during Cuba’s war for independence from Spain, was instructing his readers to love, not hate. The poem calls for us to embrace, rather than kill, the enemy.

The ending of “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930) is a cinematic classic:

In the film’s final scene, the soldier is killed as he reaches to touch a butterfly. That image has stuck with me. The soldier, weary and solemn, found beauty on the battlefield. In that moment, he forgot about the hell he was living in. He was in a trance pursuing something pure. In reaching for the butterfly, the soldier’s heart beat louder than any gunshot. In that moment, just for that moment, he was human again.

I don’t have an answer for the Middle East crisis generally, or the Israel-Palestine conflict specifically. I don’t know if Israel’s response (Israeli bombs have killed 270+ Palestinians, mostly militants) was proportional to the Palestinian militant aggression (300+ rockets fired into Israel in the past week). On this matter, I am truly impotent.

I can, however, provide a few words in favor of peace. This is my message to those in Gaza, Israel, and any other war-torn territory:

God, watch over them. Watch over their families and their people. Let them know that violence inevitably leads to more pain. Teach them that love for the enemy, while difficult and seemingly unnatural, may be the only solution to keeping their skies blue and not gray with smoke. Guide the soldiers away from the war zone and back into their homes. Heal the wounded and soothe the broken-spirited. Let rain, not warplanes, fall from the sky to wash away the blood, tears, and soot. Allow words, not guns, to determine the outcome.

Shalom Aleichem (Hebrew for “peace be upon you”).

Wa Aleykum As-Salaam (Arabic for “and upon you be peace”).

December 28, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | 4 Comments