A Letter to Congress

I wrote a letter to my representatives a few days ago. I don’t do so often. It honestly feels a little futile. Does anyone really listen? I considered just sending a one line letter, “Please support the Humanitarian Assistance Facilitation Act (H.R 3526).” I know Mitch McConnell receives way too many letters to read himself. I pictured some staff person quickly scanning hundreds of letters and making small tick marks on some chart of issues, “For” or “Against.” Maybe, if there is some vote coming up, Mitch will ask his staff, “What are people saying about this one?” One line might be sufficient and would probably be a relief to some staff person who did not want to wade through paragraphs of detail and passion.

Balancing Hard and Soft Power (Part 1)

The war drums are beating again. “ISIS is just one airline ticket away from attacking the United States,” a senator said on the morning news. The President was to announce another round of policy changes in a speech that night. “We hope the President, in his speech tonight, does not tie our hands and get into what the US will and will not do.”

It seems the “go-to” tool is the military. If things begin to boil out of control, it must be time to bomb the pot. In between bombings, we ignore the pot as it simmers on the stove. Some say it is too expensive to invest in development programs abroad. We even have laws that prevent us from engaging. You have probably heard, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.” At some point, to resolve issues, somebody has got to talk.

The Kurdish Peace Feast

“Can we just have 10 seconds of silence, please?” a Kurdish man asked.

It was our Kurdish Peace Feast. Three of his relatives had been killed by the ISIS group last week. He wanted us to honor their memory.

The feelings were raw in the room. Some were emotional and passionate.

“The US spent six million dollars for a tank that ISIS took from the Iraqi army and is now using against my people.”

Just days ago, this man had returned from a village caught between ISIS forces and the Yazidi people trapped on Mount Sinjar.

Palestinian Friends Are Starting Over

My Palestinian friend just posted pictures of his bombed apartment in Gaza. An estimated 65,000 Palestinians are now homeless with 1.8 million people displaced. Fortunately, my friend was not home at the time of the shelling. Just in case you are wondering, he was not a part of Hamas. He was an English teacher and loyal to Fatah, although that is becoming increasingly dangerous in a place like Gaza. He was so disturbed when Hamas won the elections in 2006 that he resigned his government teaching position and began looking for ways to study abroad. He was offered a full scholarship to study English Literature at a school in England, but he was not permitted to leave Gaza to receive that scholarship.

Oil, Cows, and Benevolence

I remember sometime in my educational process becoming aware of and wrestling with the term “benevolent dictator.” As a western, independent child of the enlightenment, I had assumed all dictators were bad dictators. I had only heard the word used in a negative context. But there are those in power who see it as a sacred honor and obligation to care for the people under their authority.

The FBI came to our Somali Peace Feast

The FBI agent was a sharply dressed young woman. I wondered why she was attending the Somali Peace Feast. Another friend who works with local internationals said this FBI agent had been a friend to the international community helping both the agency and the local police department be more sympathetic with the immagrant populations.