Friday, January 30, 2009

Facts

Charles Levinson of the Wall Street Journal recently reported the words of a Palestinian man who stated,

'"We come, we go, we come, we go," said Salman Muharrab, a 52-year-old farmer fleeing his border village of Abu al-Ajeen on a donkey cart with his two sons. "We just want the fighting to stop, but I have no doubt that it will go on until doomsday."'

I just found this quote to be very telling, and sadly, very true at this point. I also wanted to add that 13 Israeli soldiers died in the Gaza War and nearly 1,300 Palestinians died. Seems really fair. Not.

That's all. Just throwing that out there.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

where the red man can get ahead, man


All benediction jokes aside, today was a depressing day for me. I am usually relatively aloof to the economy in fear that my bliss will be burst by fact. Unfortunately, today I finally owned up to it. Most of my classes this semester are with graduating seniors, like myself, and there has been this recent solemn attitude in all of our class discussions and today we finally had out with it- we are afraid. Not afraid to graduate and take on the world, no, that's exactly what we want to do. We are all afraid because one by one as we have been looking for entry-level jobs in the fields over which we have been slaving for years to meet its expectations, our classmates keep getting the same responses, "sorry, we are currently in a hiring freeze", "no, we are not hiring at this time, nor do we plan to in the near future", "actually, we are trying to make cuts right now and can't hire on anyone new, you know, the economy...", and so forth. In one class discussion today, we all saw the despair in one another's faces and I imagined us all at graduation in a few short months scared out of our minds with nowhere to go. How can we change the world/make money/buy a home/actually use our degree/begin cutting governmental red tape/cure cancer/save the trees/pursue our dreams or whatever we wish to do without income? Most of us have already been living for the past 4+ years barely making ends meet and even going into debt and now what? The future us bleak for my fellow class of 09ers. I seriously almost cried in class. And here I go, about to incur probably several hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt in the next 3 of years of school and then what- will there be jobs then? I sure hope so. Perhaps I am dramatizing the situation a bit, but to my classmates this is a very real stressor. If I could make a request, I would say that if you have got a spare moment, hug a college senior. Maybe even buy them lunch if you can. Believe me, we are distraught.

PS- hats off (pun intended) to the Deseret News for the photo.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Monumental Day

Well, a really great day for America- another monumental peaceful transition of power. No matter what party you profess to belong to, this was an amazing and monumental time for everyone. Following a meaningful MLKJ Day, we had the first American president of African descend sworn in- something that I’ll bet many of our parents and grandparents never imagined seeing. I appreciated President Obama’s inauguration speech (Even though I am sure that someone else wrote it- they have top speech writers over there in DC working awfully hard! As a side note, that is one thing that I think makes the Gettysburg Address so amazing is that the president actually wrote it himself! It really came from the heart and without tons of premeditation and committee approval. Anyway…) and he said many bold things. Among my favorite quotes was:

“We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”

Boo ya, Osama bin Laden. That’s all I have to say. I also loved the part when he said:

“To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

I agree. I love how the speech ended with some awesome imagery of our founding fathers and their supreme courage that ought to serve to inspire us all to be better citizens, to more fully engage in service, and more diligently build up our communities. This nation is the product of great men and women working through divine providence and although we are not perfect, we owe it to them to work as best we can to uphold the great work they started and improve the lives that are within our grasp to touch. I often reflect on a quote that I do not recall who said it or where but it goes something like this, “you may not be able to change the whole world, but you can change someone else’s world.”

I encourage us all to participate in community service- some of my greatest college experiences have come through my volunteer work at the Children’s Justice Center, Utah State Hospital, Buckland House, and the Central Access School. They have shaped my desired career and have polished my character. I want to echo the oft overlooked credo of BYU “enter to learn, go forth to serve” which I find a much more worthwhile pursuit that just seeking immediate revenue for selfish ends. Don’t get me wrong, money is great and without it the world would cease to function as we know it. But money can either serve to corrode or to bless, only the holder of it can decide which it will do. With that said, as my NPO professor Brad says, “giving money is great, but giving your time is priceless.”

Friday, January 9, 2009

The War.

(photo of the West Bank, Palestine- in a time of relative peace a few months ago)

Check out this article from the NY Times today- lots of interesting stuff:
U.N. and Red Cross add to Outcry on Gaza War

This is chaos! What is going on?! I cannot believe how poorly things are playing out in Gaza. First Israel makes mountains out of mole hills and then when things go from bad to much, much worse, they only add fuel to the fire. I understand that the IDF and Israeli government is trying to put on a facade of humanitarianism by having scheduled ceasefires for a grand total of 3 hours every other day where people can go get help from groups that have come in for medical and other support, but come on! 3/48 hours to receive medical care, to get food, to try to find shelter- that is ridiculous. If we only offered food and care for 3 hours every other day in our hospitals, no one would make it. Not to mention that many of the victims in Gaza are trapped under fallen buildings, wounded, or are children who simply cannot get to relief stations are may not be found among the rubble and assisted in so short a time. And bombing a U.N. school- an elementary school!- don't even get me started. I had better stop before I say something rash, rather like our dear Vatican official- what a statement! (see the Times article for more info) I actually found some wry humor in how he said that, sure, Hamas was not exactly sending Israel "sugared almonds", but to respond in the way that Israel has is unthinkable.

Another crazy thing is how war is now televised in our modern world. There is all of this international pressure, because the whole world can see up close and personal into the tragedy and inhumanity of war. I wonder how the modern world would have reacted to the Civil War, the War of Independence, and so forth had they been able to witness it via satellite and what they would have tried to have done. Interesting.

And I don't know who is responsible for killing those relief workers, but seriously, that blows my mind. Whatever side you are on, you do not want the entire world to stop sending aid and help to those in need. Palestine is in dire need of the assistance, and Israel does not want to contribute to its current view of brutality. This has seriously gone too far.

Lastly, I just want to say that I have actually interacted with members of the IDF as well as Palestinian military members. At first their presence was shocking with their huge, loaded guns being toted around like nothing. When crossing the wall into Bethlehem, we were inspected by tough, muscular Palestinians with large guns and scowls on their faces. Looking at our passports, walking around and inspecting us and then they said, "Alright, thank you. Have a nice day" with real sincerity. I was left gaping. These are real people. They don't want to scare you, they are just doing their job and trying to protect their families. I liked this picture of IDF members (from the online NYT), some with kippahs, one on a cell phone- they are just people. That is why I can't stand the way that so few have such a significant charge over so many in this world who would have things a different way. These military members probably don't want to hurt relief workers, children, and civilians (although most Israelis do support the war). But this is their duty and it is tragic that it means sentencing their neighbors to death.

Friday, January 2, 2009

by the way


By the way, you have likely heard about the Israel/Palestine skirmish that is blowing up into an all-out war, right? Although I want to try to limit my words, I do want to say that it has been weighing heavily upon my mind.

When I first heard the news, I read all that I could find on it and it just broke my heart. You may not understand, but this is a place I once called my home. These are a people that I think of as my brethren, I am of the house of Israel- and I believe that to be literal- so here are my people suffering and here is my home which has become a war zone. The very same government that permitted me to study in Israel seems to now be initiating what looks a lot like genocide.

I just want them to stop, to take a step back, to find common ground and realize what they are all doing to each other. But Palestine has little international recognition and little governmental organization and little ability to mobilize. The people there have been pushed and have been labeled and now they are being destroyed. The common Palestinian has never launched a rocket into Israel. The common Palestinian is not a Hamas leader that craves power. The common Palestinian has, however, seen a massive military attack on their small space of land. I know that Hamas is corrupt, I know that both Israel and Palestine have been stubborn and have violated what international pressure has been pushing in order to establish peace. However, it appears to me that the problem is in the organization of the Palestinian government. They do not have real authority, just corruption. There are continual rockets and bombs thrown over the wall into Israel not because it is some military attack, but because the government cannot control the fundamentalists and angry militant youth that make their own bombs and throw them in their anger at the Israelis building a wall that cuts into their territory and then not regularly letting them past border control for work or worship. There are a minority of Palestinians that have just had enough of being pushed around like 2nd class citizens and since the government does not have an effective way of diplomacy, the only way these young, angry people know how to react is with their homemade bombs.

Obviously this is dumb and ineffective and Israel has now gotten sick of it and , unlike Palestine, Israel has the monetary support of the US and has every citizen automatically enrolled into the military as teenagers and so they have the ability to launch a major offensive attack in response to these stupid bottle rockets. It's all so sad, so frustrating. I have seriously cried thinking about it several times. I am most saddened when I read about the civilian deaths. I think of the Palestinians that I got to meet and wonder where they are and if they are alright. I have put in a photo of a Palestinian boy that I met and I cried when I read a news clip from a man talking about how his son had been running an errand for him when the first Israeli missiles were fired and never came back. I do not know if this is the same boy that I know, but it doesn't matter- someone knows him and loves him and misses him. Not just this boy who never returned, but all of the casualties. They all have families that mourn for them and I get emotional just thinking about all of the cumulated anguish being experienced right now in my former home.

nice to be back


Well, dear friends, it has been a while. It is great to be back and, of course, I have something upstairs cooking. Several somethings, really. We'll just start with one. I was interested to see an article compliments of Yahoo! Travel that paralleled many of the things I saw in Egypt. If you search in my archive, you will see that there is a post on Egypt covering some of these issues already, so I will try not to repeat myself. Let's start with what our comrades at Yahoo! said:

"Of all the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only one is still standing: the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Granted, its pinnacle was lopped off, and the polished white limestone that once faced its sloping sides was scavenged ages ago. But there it is in the Egyptian desert, the largest in a trio of stupendous royal tombs, with a quirky monument called the Sphinx alongside. It's quite a sight to see — if only you could see it.

"Today, aggressive throngs of souvenir vendors, tour touts, and taxi drivers crowd the entrance to the Pyramids of Giza. Though camel rides and horseback tours are now banned from the monument area, visitors still clamber unchecked over the ancient landmarks. The haphazard sprawl and pollution of Cairo comes right to the edge of the archaeological zone, yet Egyptian officials seem unconcerned about protecting the site.

"It's difficult now to get that iconic long-distance view of the three pyramids looming in the desert; you can't really see them until you're too close. Oriented precisely to the points of the compass, they were built for three Pharaohs of the 4th Dynasty (about 27th c. B.C.) — the Great Pyramid of Cheops, the slightly smaller Second Pyramid of Chephren, and the much smaller red-granite Third Pyramid of Mycerinus — and designed to imitate the rays of the sun shining down from its zenith. Most tourists expect a visit to the famed pyramids to be a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, not a tawdry letdown. It's the only Ancient Wonder we have left — what a pity it's come to this."

AMEN! What a pity. I, for one, did not see any enforcement of this supposed ban on camel and horse rides in the area- there were camels all over! A friend of mine was even asked by a vendor there how many camels he would be willing to accept in exchange for me (as a slave? wife? who knows...), but that is another story.

Because of the one remaining side of the pyramids, I believe the to West, that is still a large stretch of sand where everyone takes their photos, few people realize that they are actually situated right in downtown Cairo. There is a park across the street where I always saw tons of people gathered doing drugs, urinating, etc. Not exactly upper crust real estate. The Pyramids are, unfortunately, not even the start of the disregard of ancient wonders that are not cared for. The Cairo Museum which houses many priceless things in textbooks that have expanded the minds of historians and taken the lives of archaeologists to discover, was a depressing sight. Artifacts literally thousands of years old were disheveled in little glass cases in disarray all over. There was very little organization and things were just all out in the open in the sweltering heat- yeah, no air conditioning! How well can the memory and history of these things be preserved when they are forgotten about on a shelf, crammed in with other similar artifacts with pencil-written descriptions in each case and no climate control? It was almost offensive to me how poorly the artifacts were treated. The only AC, thank goodness, was for Tut's treasures and a room of mummies. Needless to say, I spent most of my time there where the forced air better masked to scent of perspiration and mildew. I would have gladly payed more money at each sight to better enable the Egyptian government to better maintain their history. And although I'm not usually a huge fan of conquest and colonization, I can honestly say that the items taken by foreigners that are now housed in the British Museum or in Berlin probably have a much better chance of preservation.