Since it's almost apple season, I thought today's "Language of Conflict" blog could work with the metaphor, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree....
If you're an American who has traveled abroad, ventured beyond the confines of your resort and built enough rapport with locals to talk politics you likely have heard some less than flattering things about the United States.
If you listened non-defensively you probably heard about how America has its fingers all over the planet and involves itself in everything.
If you talked to anyone in Pakistan, you may have heard about the on-going drone strikes that terrify people going to visit their grandmothers.
We don't want to hate Americans...
"We don't know when something is going to fall out of the sky," they explain.
"We don't want to hate America, it's just that we live in fear because of these attacks. It's hard not to be angry."
Yikes, I can only imagine walking outside afraid some robot is going to fall out of the sky and kill me or my grandmother.
I don't know all the details of our foreign policy -- no citizen does. Most of us have no idea what our country does abroad and often have to learn about it from the people at the end of the policies.
It rarely feels very good. I once got an earful from an Iraqi man. I was flying on Gulf Air from Bahrain to the UAE. The plane was practically empty, but somehow they sat be by the window with a very angry man in the aisle seat.
Not a pleasant flight, but an educational one.
Now, I'm not purporting an isolationist stance. I wish the United States had intervened in the Holocaust, in Rwanda, and Indonesia among others. I do believe there are mega thugs and mega bullies that America stops everyday. That said, perhaps we could be handling this a bit better.
If the Secretary of State is unsure....
While in office, both Secretary of State Kissinger and Secretary Albright said they believed that it was America's job to fight these bullies. Once out of office, however, both expressed the opposite or at least far more uncertainty.
Isn't that interesting?
I realized the disconnect with Albright after my father asked her this question at a talk she gave once out of office and then subsequently reading her autobiography. They said the opposite.
I did some research on Kissinger and found the same pattern.
Perhaps when you're in State Department, you see the world through the lens of "it's our job." Once on the outside with some time to reflect, things become blurry.
And as Newton told us, there's just something about that darn momentum, once it starts it likes to stay in motion. Intervention breeds intervention. And that momentum might be having an impact on our children.
Skimming the news, I feel like I've been flipping between articles about foreign policy and then ones about violent police and school bullying.
Eventually my mind just considered that maybe these topics are more connected than our news sources might suggest. Is the bullying in the police force and in our children trickling down from the government?
Examining our country is nationalism
Before I continue with this critique, I want to frame it a touch. In America, and in many other far more repressive countries, critiquing the government can be considered anti-nationalist.
This is ridiculous; you can love something and constantly check if you're doing a good job. Successful companies do this everyday; they don't say, "if you criticize the company, you're not one of us." Well, at least smart CEOs don't...they look deeper into the commentary. One of the most successful CEOs of all time would consistently ask himself, "What I am not seeing?"
Well, I think there's something we may not be seeing.
When I turn this lens on America, I do it with the intention of a great CEO -- to make this country better. That requires looking in the mirror and saying, "Is there something going on here?"
Who decides if war is just?
I am asking that we consider if our kids and police showing up as bullies reflects an aggressiveness and an unspoken violence that pervades our culture. Are we justifying violence at the top and then saying to those below "Do what I say not what I do?"
The problem of distinguishing legitimized violence from illegitimate violence is a very old debate. Even old than Italian Friar Thomas Aquinas born in 1225.
Aquinas wrote about "just war" at a time when people were trying to figure out whether one could have legitimized violence. I like Aquinas but his instructions are just far too open to interpretation. He announces three requirements for just war
1. prompted by a state (not an individual or business)
2. those attacked deserve it
3. those attacking should have a rightful intention.
The theory begs the question...the problem remains; regarding two and three, who decides?
Who decides that victim state deserves it?
Who decides that one has the rightful intention?
These police constantly justify their brutality; I bet school bullies can do the same. Finding a reason to hate takes only a moment.
Aquinas put us back where we started.
Opposing forces often believe they have God on their side or or at least on the side of the good. If the leader's don't they at least convince their people of this. The Indonesians were convinced communists caused all problems; Europe blamed the Jews; Hutu blamed the Tutsi.
If everyone believes he is on the side of the good, who becomes the ultimate arbitrator. America?
Does the United States decide who is a bully and who is Luke Skywalker?
In the end, history often decides, and re-decides, not those engaging in war. In the meantime, we can get a sense of how we are doing by looking around at our own culture.
Apples Still Fall Close to Trees
Technology has transformed much of our daily lives, but some things remain the same. Apples still fall rather closely to trees.
If we have aggressive kids bullying one another in school and police brutally attacking folks, we may want to look up the trunk.