Posted by: Mark Nielsen | May 23, 2012

Protests, NATO, Egyptian Elections and a Hope for True Change

English: An anti-Gaddafi demonstrater in Chica...

English: An anti-Gaddafi demonstrater in Chicago, Illinois uses co-opted iconic American political imagery, in this case Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster from the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that the NATO meetings are over, there’s not much of a “hangover” here in Chicago — at least not in the circles where I run. All a bit of a “tempest in a teapot”, if you ask me. But I could be wrong… maybe just too “out of it” to be aware of significant occurences over the weekend.

As of even a week ago, I thought I might be downtown myself, standing alongside my fellow religious peaceniks (especially my Mennonite friends) to remind the world that all abuses of power– whether blatantly violent or not– are still not tolerable under God’s call to “do justice, love mercy” and walk humbly with Him. But either I wimped out, or I was presented with a more immediate way to do justice: helping run a “wilderness day” for visually impaired kids at a nearby outdoor education site where I did some temp work recently (Sunrise Lake Outdoor Education Center).

Working with the blind kids was certainly the safer of two good choices. I will at least admit that. I will further admit that my belief in people’ s political awareness and readiness to change leaves much to be desired of late.

I’m just flat-out disillusioned, whether by the level of “business as usual” that has continued under Obama (e.g. biased and shortsighted economic policy, and finance industry regulations that were merely cosmetically doctored instead of fully reformed), or by the comfortable apathy that comes so easily to far too many of us. Finally, I will admit that my own comfort was an added factor keeping me out in the western suburbs instead of on the “front lines”: I didn’t want to brave the traffic, the general confusion, and the potentially deeper disillusionment of encountering some angry but shallow hipster who knows what she doesn’t stand for, but not what she does stand for (or at least how to make it happen).

I am apparently out of step with the Left, the Right, the Center (where Obama has put down roots by now), and all points in-between. I am a nation of one. But I’m probably no smarter than the others, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

I noted there were three Floridian Occupiers (terrorists/anarchists/idiots?… the NATO Three) who were arrested for preparing (though not actually conducting) violent acts against police and public institutions. Who’s telling the truth, or who’s being scapegoated, I can’t really say.

I have been generally supportive of the Occupy Movement’s zeitgeist of redistributing power and broadening responsibility/opportunity. But there’s a lack of unity and a certain flakiness among that crowd that I think is too common for me to throw my energies in that direction too much. It’s a “too many cooks” issue, most likely — a movement lacking a streamlined set of principles, or a charismatic leader, …something… I don’t know what, really.

By contrast, Egyptian citizens today have the privelege of voting in their first truly free elections in about seventy years. Probably not a perfect scenario there either, as far as the candidates they have to choose from, or the country’s resources and capacity to meet such a wide variety of needs. I’ve been to Cairo… nothing there has ever happened efficiently. One good election won’t undo centuries of benign chaos.

Nevertheless, the courage to fix what’s broken that we have seen in the Arab Spring movement is certainly more inspiring to me than what has proven clumsy and difficult to fix here in my own country.

A recent viewing of a “TV blunders” show reminded me unpleasantly that the 2000 election (Florida goes to Gore. No, wait… Bush. No, too close to call… plus, there’s this hanging chad thing we have to deal with…) proved to me beyond a doubt that American wisdom and our modern technology are both vastly overestimated.

And here we are 12 years later, about to enter another presidential election season which –based on the evidence so far– will only be a bit less ridiculous… if we’re lucky.

I’d protest, if I believed we could just eliminate this pesky “human error” problem. But I’m fresh out of hope these days.

Who will heal this “blindness” that so plagues the present generation?



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