Somewhere, sometime, someone advised only to speak when it improves upon the silence. I generally try to abide by that rule. In fact, now seems like a particularly easy time to do so. Though much is happening in the world right now, from the bloody streets of Tripoli to the waxed-down halls of the Capitol, almost all of it is out of our control – out of anyone’s control.
In Libya, the tireless efforts of rebels who had seemed – just a day ago – to be close to shattering Ghadafi’s regime appear to have been quelled. What can Washington do besides watch? Perhaps more than we know – but for those of us who don’t serve inside the Pentagon and are merely afforded the internet’s transient knowledge, we are impotent. There are no fundraisers to be held, no petitions to be signed.
On February 26, I wrote:
“Time will kill Ghadafi – but the ever reverberating impact of international military action will kill many, many more.”
I was wrong. Almost six months – and perhaps an unquantifiable amount of lives – later, it is clear to me that the United States, in a responsible, cogent, and well-regulated manner, with a pre-determined, efficient, and time-lined exit strategy, should have intervened militarily in Libya. But what can we do now?
During this period of political upheaval and violent downpour, despair pervades and enmity is rampant. But there is one, simple thing we can do. It doesn’t affect foreign policy and it involves no retroactive military stratagem. It is, however, a pearl of wisdom.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting with my eight-year-old campers around a long, crowded table of camp food; the kind of food that you eat because it’s there, not because you had a choice. As we sat down and the kids began rummaging through bowls of pasta like a stray cat claws through a pile of garbage, I became slightly disheartened by the meal. I turned to my co-counselor, tired and irritated, and said, “Ugh, Danny, I hate this food.”
Just then, my youngest camper, Nathan, shifted his head up from his grimy plate. His lips smeared in tomato sauce, Nathan looked me directly in the eye, as though I had done him a personal offense.
“Don’t say hate.”
“Because it’s not nice.”
His message was a juvenile and simple one; but often, in the hustle and bustle of the complexities of the everyday news cycle, the simplest messages are the most poignant. Our power over the rest of the world (especially during times like these) is limited. Our power over foreign dictators is none. Our power over our own words is immense.
Try not “hating” anything or anyone for one day. See what happens. Who knows – maybe the word you choose to substitute it with will improve upon the silence.