This film has been all over the news today and so while the kids were watching a little pre-bedtime Babar I decided to check it out. It struck a chord deep within me. A few weeks ago I was driving around with Captain E. A car in front of us had a broken muffler and the van was spewing out black smoke. Captain E said to me. "Why is the car doing that?" It started a conversation about pollution, cars, oil, our dependence on it, electric cars, and then how we actually get electricity. He looked out the window for a second and then turned back toward me, "Water is everywhere. I'm going to invent a car that runs on water." I chuckled and filed it away to write on the blog. To a kid the world is like that. If there are problems, you find a way to fix them. If things aren't fair, you make them fair. If kids are mean, someone stops them. I remember being a kid like that, I remember being a teenager, and a young twenty something like that. Things seem so clear when you are young and you are filled with infinite assurances that you have within you the ability to change things that aren't right. Then something happens. You become disillusioned with the government, your eye is turned by your desires, you become overwhelmed with the management of your own daily existence, and then as you start to acquire goods, children, a life you become entrenched in the system through which it was provided.
My disillusionment with the government started almost as soon as I entered the voting system. As a young child I was eager to take part in democracy. History and civics was one of my favorite subjects in school, only beaten out by literature. I would bring my civics book home in September and by October has read the entire thing, for entertainment. I reveled in class debates, loved participating in our mock presidential elections, and no field trip stuck with me more than our visit to the state capital. I was in student council and by eighth grade was student council president. I loved it so much I fully expected to go to college, become a lawyer, and end up in government. But I got jaded and I blame the biggest election this country has to offer. I understand why this country doesn't use a direct popular vote election, but when you go to your first presidential election and vote for a person you know has zero chance of winning in your state, when you start to feel like your vote really means nothing, and what really matters in politics is money, well that insignificance makes you feel like, what is the point.
Meanwhile life goes on and like most people I became entirely entwined in mine. When I was in college the only club I joined was Amnesty International. Blood diamonds were a big part of our information campaign and yet when I got married like a magpie my eye was turned by glitter. I love the marriage that my ring symbolizes but at least once a month I look at it and wonder why I needed a diamond to prove the point, why I so quickly sold out on my convictions. In the ten years since that choice, my family has grown and my universe has become my family. I cook, I clean, I play. I am mother and part-time father when my husband's job keeps him away. We bought a house and two cars. We spend our free time working on our house projects and running our kids around to activities. My kids drawers are filled with clothes. My fridge is full of food. We are busy, we are comfortable and if it wasn't for NPR I'd have zero idea what is going on in the world. In the car today I was listening to the author Adam Goodheart, of "1861: The Civil War Awakening". In his interview he said that when his students don't understand why it took this country so long to deal with the issue of slavery he talks to them about our own current dependence on fossil fuels. Most of us realize that our consumption and disregard for the planet will lead to grave consequences. Many of us feel guilty about it but for most of us that isn't enough to make us change our behavior because we see it as too inconvenient, too expensive, too disruptive, etc. I'm that person. I am so wrapped up in myself, that the girl who was going to join the peace core seems like another person. This video made me feel young again. It reminded me what it feels like to have a bigger purpose in this world.
Sure I've read the critics of it. They spend a lot of money on their video campaign versus actually putting money into the country. It seems like to me they are pretty open about that. They aren't the most effective NGO. Does that make them the exception or the rule? And does it matter? Dr. J studies NGO's. It's kind of what makes him tick and the truth is most of them are sort of like throwing money down a hole. Very few have lasting power. Does it make them wrong? There are arguments on each side and for the most part they leave me with a feeling of being unsure, of living in the gray. Does that mean we should quit, give up, do nothing? If they feed one person, or immunize one kid, or clean up one villages' water in this moment should we be angry with them because we don't think they have the power to last. Should we shoot down their efforts, or should we try to direct them to more sustainable change. Should we turn instead to fight for guaranteed human rights of life and liberty, of the possession of property for all people in this world, not just people whose governments we support or areas of the world whose existence have an affect our global economy. The truth about people is they are amazingly ingenious in coming up with a way to sustain life for themselves if there is a system of laws that protects their efforts and guarantees them the right to life. And I think that is the whole point of this video. We are after all talking about the capture and conviction of a horrible man, and we are talking about a young generation being interested in politics. For heaven sakes Washington, FUEL THE INTEREST. If you think their arguments are oversimplified, educate them. If you think their efforts are wasted, show them where to put their efforts. Regardless of how you feel about the current situation in the North Africa, the Arab spring showed the world that the power of the internet to galvanize a country with the energy and optimism of youth. Embrace that power and realize that education and awareness are the first steps to change. And to myself, and people like me, the second is staying interested, and not just throwing away your right to care, to learn, and to change because you are personally comfortable.