Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: war

Creating Alternative Ways to Serve Our Country


This afternoon, I actually had free time on my hands, alone. Wanting to take full advantage of this rarity, especially now that it is summer and my children are home from school, I drove to the bookstore. I treated myself to a white chocolate mocha and browsed through the book shelves. I picked up a small book that called out to me, titled The Thing You Think You Cannot Do. I opened to a page that talked about the author’s experience in Iraq.

I walked with the book to the café and sat at a table next to the window. I returned to that page, and read something that I thought was quite appropriate to share for the Fourth of July Holiday. Here are excerpts of what the author, Gordon Livingston, M.D., wrote in Chapter 10, Beware of ideas on which we all agree:

“No shared feelings are more firmly embedded in the American culture than the admiration and gratitude that we have toward the young men and women who have served in our most recent wars. Their sacrifices are celebrated at every opportunity, and stories about our “wounded warriors” and their families are a stable of the nightly news. Our great national spectacles – sporting events, holidays – become occasions for patriotic celebration and remembrance, rife with clichés (such as “Freedom isn’t Free”) designed to reassure us that, while we personally have not chosen to sacrifice anything during wartime, we at least appreciate those who have made the choice to do so. They stand in their camouflage uniforms often looking a little mystified at the applause.

The reflexive impulse to treat our troops as heroes serves an important part aside from relieving our guilt at having done nothing ourselves. The war in Iraq, no less than other wars, involved the morally ambiguous process of killing large numbers of people who posed no threat to us. Because the instruments of destruction were our sons and daughters, we find it hard to take responsibility for asking this of them without regret and self-examination. Ignoring our misjudgments and redoubling our admiration for the young people who risked everything on our behalf are far easier….

The “Support our troops” bumper magnets that blossomed as the invasion of Iraq commenced could have just as well read “My country, right or wrong!”

And so we venerate those who put themselves in fear-inducing situations on our behalf and did whatever they could to survive. Most of them are neither heroes nor killers, just patriotic people volunteering to hazard themselves for reasons that to them seemed good at the time. Can we deal with our fears in some way that does not involve the use of bullets or high explosives? Can we celebrate those willing to take risks while creating alternative ways for young people to serve their country that are less costly to them and to others in distant places who love their children in the same way that we love ours?” 

I hope that we value our troops enough to listen and reflect upon the questions Mr. Livingston posed before us, and invest the time, wisdom and love necessary to find answers for these powerful questions.

Love and Power and War


This morning I read a passage about war in Lynn Andrew’s book, Love and Power (pg.76), which I felt is important to share.

War comes from the idea and the belief that I am here and you are there, and we are separate. There is a great weakness in this concept. In blindly accepting the concept of duality, you will always lose, because you become lost in a deadly game of social power. The game of social power is very different from the game of personal power. In personal power, you honor a worthy opponent, which I’ll explain later. In the game of social power, you are trying to win over someone else. That immediately puts you in a one-down position, which is an aggressive, confrontational position of separation. If you are trying to live in true power, this one-down position will defeat you at every turn. You are caught before a vast chasm of duality where you are forever distanced from others whom you wish to dominate.

The first step toward bridging the chasm of duality is accepting life as it is.


How to Advertise War

How to Advertise War

From The Magic of Believing by Claude Bristol (published 1948), pages 51-52

For forty-four years, ever since the Russ-Japanese war, the Japs immortalized Naval Warrant Officer Magoschichi Sugino, fabled as one of Japan’s early suicide fighters and greatest heroes. Thousands of statues were erected to his memory and in repeated song and story young Nipponese were taught to believe that by following his example, they could die in no more heroic manner than as a suicide fighter. Millions of them believed it and during the war thousands of them did die as suicide fighters… This terrible and persistent deeply founded belief, though based entirely on a fable, caused thousands of Japanese to throw away their lives during the war.

We, too, as Americans, were subjected to the power of suggestion long before and during World War I; we got it again in a big way under the direction of General Hugh Johnson with his N.R.A. plan, and in World War II it inspired us to increase our effort, to buy bonds, and so forth. We were constantly told that Germany and Japan had to be defeated unconditionally. Under the constant repetition of the same thought all individual thinking was paralyzed and the mass mind became grooved to a certain pattern – win the war unconditionally. As one writer said: “In war the voice of dissension becomes the voice of treason.” So again we see the terrific force of thought repetition – it is our master and we do as we are told.

This subtle force of the repeated suggestion overcomes our reason, acting directly on our emotions and our feelings, and finally penetrating to the very depths of our subconscious minds. It is the basic principle of all successful advertising – the continued and repeated suggestion that first makes you believe after which you are eager to buy.

Wise Words from a Republican

George Brikho

“We created ISIS, and we need to destroy ISIS,” said George Brikho. “ISIS is funded by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, our supposed allies.”

These words by a Republican running for Congress in 2014 caught my interest in an event I recently covered. Unlike most Republicans, what Brikho said was honest, bold and heartfelt, not staged. He is obviously not afraid to look at the root of ISIS’ formation, which he blames on our foreign policy as well as the current and past administrations.

“Today’s Republicans are not behaving like Republicans,” he said. “Today it’s all about the money changers. Wars are being made for profit. Corporations are directing politicians. It’s no longer about liberation for the people.”

His solution is simple – stop getting involved with other countries and going to war, because the more war we get into, the more debt we have.

“Saddam and Kaddafi wanted to sell their oil their way through OPEC,” he said. “It’s like you have a store or any another business. You have the right to set the prices and do business the way you want.”

Saudi Arabia is the leader of OPEC. It is also the only member of the OPEC cartel that does not have an allotted production quota. Oil can be bought from OPEC only if you have dollars. In November 2000, Iraq began selling its oil in euros. When OPEC oil could be sold in other currencies, like the euro, that’s not too good for the U.S. economic dominance.

“Leaders of other countries were not happy about what Saddam and Kaddafi were doing and wanted things to be done the way they wanted them to be done,” said Brikho. “So they went in and polarized that nation into submission. Then the federal banking comes in, and the new leaders are given money to rebuild, and in order to be able to give this money back, those countries, who never taxed their citizens before, start taxing their people the way we do.”

I wondered why this Republican was not talking like most Republicans. What was so different about him?

“I’m a statesman, not a politician,” he said. “I’m a concerned American, and I work for the people. I am willing to expose anyone whose allegiance is to money and not the people.”

On his website, it says:

The Constitution of the United States of America is the most intelligently crafted governing document in the history of mankind. The US Constitution protects personal liberty by limiting the power of our government. Unfortunately, our government violates its boundaries on a daily basis. Our federal government must be restrained.

One wonders why the people have given their powers away.

“We have become too comfortable, to where unconsciously we’re allowing for things that don’t benefit us to happen,” he said. “For instance, a third of our paycheck goes to our government. This is modern day enslavement. You don’t need a cage to be a slave.”

I researched the difference between a statesman and a politician and found an interesting quote by James Freeman Clarke, who said, “The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation.”

I also found an interesting article by Mike North who wrote that the founders of this nation were not politicians, but were statesmen, adding, “We are suffering from a drought of statesmen and a flood of politicians. It’s like a diet full of calories with almost no nutrition. Statesmen are like vegetables. Many people don’t like them, but they’re good for you. Politicians are like too much ice cream. Yummy, I’ll worry about the stomach ache later.”

I feel we should be grateful that George Brikho is helping our country fill this drought, and do, what I think is so crucial for our nation to do, which is to become politically fit.

You can read Mike North’s full article here:

9/11 Recurs Every 3 1/2 Months

911 Memorial

Early Thursday morning, April 11, gun violence survivors and families of victims finished reading the names of all the people who have been killed by guns since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting less than four months prior. The list of over 3300 people took 12 hours to read.

The total number of people who died in the 9/11 attacks was 2977. With the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government responded within a blink of an eye. They made plans for the War on Terrorism, thus began the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Many lives were lost and destroyed. However, if you were to ask any government official who gave their consent to the wars, they’d likely say, “We think the price was worth it” – the exact answer that their colleague Madeline Albright had given decades ago when she was asked if the death of 500,000 Iraqi children due to the UN imposed sanctions on Iraq was worth it.

Over 1,057,000 have been killed in the United States by gun violence since John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980. That’s 1,054,000 more people than those who died in 9/11, and that’s only counting the last 22 years. Yet a few days ago, something as simple as President Obama’s background check reform plan failed to win enough votes by the senate.

My question is this: are not your average everyday victims of gun violence, who outnumber the victims of 9/11 by more than a million, worthy of consideration when making the slightest changes regarding the very thing that took their lives? And, why is it always so much easier to pass laws that destroy people (war) rather than laws that help save people (health and gun reform)?

Gone With the Wind

Gone with the Wind

While cleaning the house and folding the laundry, I first watched a movie, The Words, and then a documentary about Margaret Mitchell who wrote my favorite book.

The first non textbook I ever read was Gone with the Wind, in Arabic. I was nine years old, had recently left my birth country of Iraq and was living in Amman, Jordan with my family. We were awaiting a Visa to enter the United States. I loved Gone with the Wind because despite my young age and eastern cultural background, I connected and fell in love with Scarlett O’Hara and the other characters which resembled my tribe. Seeing my attachment to this story, my siblings took me to the movie theater for the first time in my life where I watched a black and white version of Gone with the Wind, subtitled in Arabic. The book and film was my first impression of America. I thought I would come here and see “the South” as it was described by Margaret Mitchell. Well, I was in for a big surprise. Michigan in 1981 was not Georgia in the 1800’s. Still, this became the pattern in my life – being inspired by western storytellers while writing about the land, culture and descendants of Iraq.

Earlier this year, I read Gone with the Wind for the third time. I saw it with completely different eyes. This time around, I saw the politics of war that I’d missed as a child. Some of the most memorable quotes were:

Ashley Wilkes: “Most of the miseries of the world were caused by wars. And when the wars were over no one ever knew what they were about.”

Rhett Butler: “All wars are fought for money. All other reasons men go to war are just false reasons, pretexts and empty words fed to them by stay at home orators.”

I guess we either do not want to learn our lesson, are too lazy to find other solutions, or war is just too good a thing to pass up.