Not a single day has passed since my mum came visiting me without us having at least one conversation about politics. Spent the evening of yesterday talking about the civil war in Syria - about how it had gone on for so long - six years this March, and how innocent lives were affected, families displaced, lost, killed and all the tragedy that had become people's realities. For my mum, the impact had really hit home when she saw Alan Kurdi, the the young Syrian boy who was pictured washed up on a Turkish beach. It's insane and a shame, to say the least, to realize that in 2017 with all the global level progress and achievements of this modern day, this level of unrest is still happening. Not the war stories from my parents or historians, this is happening right now, today, in my day! A strange feeling washed over me and I realized what a privilege, often and easily overlooked, it was to know peace and safety, security and political stability every waking moment. Can you even begin to imagine what it would be like for you, you who once tasted and knew 'freedom', moved up the Maslow pyramid, and then have it all snatched away leaving you hanging on for dear life? Sigh.
As I enjoy these blessings, remind me that it's not given for my benefit only or to foster complacency. Remind me to put myself out there and serve. That I have the capacity, and I am enough to serve and work for the greater good. I was reminded of this today, while I attended a breakfast event that's held annually in the states across the US, in honor of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The event honored an inclusive initiative which was a football pitch created for handicapped kids to enjoy safe recreation. Two local high school students who displayed excellence in academics and service were also honored with MLK awards, and with scholarships to support their dreams. Being in attendance woke me up to a service orientation, that you've got to serve from who you are and with what you've got. And that you've always got something: a voice or a position - silence, sitting, standing. Being in attendance illuminated me with MLK's work and his legacy, and it struck me how people would come together to keep the fire alive. To keep lighting and waking others up.
"I was arrogant, narcissistic, caught up in the culture of winning."
Society, to a great extent is structured (or constructed) in a way that incites and incentivizes vices, when it has the option to denigrate and curtail even. It would rather reward avarice and continue to breed vicious cycles that ultimately "profit" no one. At this MLK breakfast, an introductory clip of the guest speaker Bill Whitaker played back an interview with Marty Stroud a US prosecutor, and Whitaker. Stroud would admit on air to profiling and sentencing an innocent man Glenn Ford to death row. The quote in the preceding paragraph was his explanation of the rationale, behind his conviction that a conviction would boost his career. Stroud went on to a successful legal career, and Ford would become one of the country's longest-serving, death row inmates. Even though Ford was exonerated after 30 years on death row, he was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after his release, and lived for a few months. Deeply moving narrative (link for video and transcript). While one man was damaged physically - health, career, economically and ultimately disadvantaged, the other lives with the guilt, "a hole" he was heard saying, and the burden till he dies. If we all lived true to our calling, we'd all be better for it. Better collectively.
Hours after the breakfast had nourished my body, and the melodies from the local jazz band had soothed my soul, I sat back for a while and just soaked up all that light. And then at 12.03pm, [mum and I sat in the living room, watching and listening to the YouTube livestream as] Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. ...