Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Sad Day for the Foreign Service

Posted in Foreign Service Life, Human Rights at 6:52 pm by graceandpoise

My thoughts and my heart go out to the friends, family, and other loved ones of the four Americans who lost their lives in Benghazi last night.

A colleague recently described the U.S. government’s position on free speech in a way that really resonated with me:  we are “extremists when it comes to free speech.”  We might distance ourselves from what you have to say, we might even call your words reprehensible and a few other things, but we will continually defend your right to say it.  Someone in America put up some video, which I understand says some wild and offensive things (I confess I haven’t seen it myself), and someone in Egypt thought it was a good idea to put clips of that video on television and tell people to go to the U.S. embassy and protest.  The jury is out as to whether the tragic events in Benghazi are related to that whole mess or not, but at the end of the day, freedom of speech protects what those people said.  We’ll certainly distance ourselves from both the video and the person who called people to protest at the embassy about it, but we’ll defend their rights to say it.

As for my own opinions, suffice it to say I’ve got some choice words for those who would perpetrate this kind of attack, and for those in this country who would try to turn a tragedy like this into a political football.  In the interest of civility, I’ll keep those words to myself for now, as I fear I would veer into expletives territory.  Instead, I’ll share with you a bit of Secretary Clinton‘s eloquence from earlier today:

“All over the world, every day, America’s diplomats and development experts risk their lives in the service of our country and our values, because they believe that the United States must be a force for peace and progress in the world, that these aspirations are worth striving and sacrificing for. Alongside our men and women in uniform, they represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation.”

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear – there is no justification for this, none. Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith. And as long as there are those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace.”

May it be a long, long, long time before we ever wake up to news like this again.  Ideally, we never will, but being a part of the modern Foreign Service means we all serve – or will serve – in difficult places and in harm’s way.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Posted in Foreign Service Life, Human Rights, Travels at 10:32 pm by graceandpoise

I’ve spent the past few days in another city in another of India’s states, doing logistics and general shepherding for a high-level delegation from the U.S.  The delegation included several members of Congress and the son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., MLK III, along with some spouses and staffers.  The idea behind the delegation’s trip was to commemorate and retrace the steps of Martin Luther King Jr’s trip to India with his wife 50 years ago, when the civil rights leader came and spent a month in order to learn from Mahatma Gandhi’s methods of nonviolent resistance.  As Ahmedabad, Gujarat was Gandhi’s home town, naturally they had to include it in the trip.  A few photos…

Gujarat Vidyapith, a university that teaches the Gandhian Way and was founded by Gandhi himself

Gujarat Vidyapith, a university that teaches the "Gandhian Way" and was founded by Gandhi himself

Gandhis home at the ashram where he lived and taught for many years

Gandhi's home at the ashram where he lived and taught for many years

School for untouchables at the Gandhi ashram, run by a nonprofit organization

School for "untouchables" at the Gandhi ashram, run by a nonprofit organization

Song Lyrics - this was sung by an interfaith (13 faiths) choir at the Gandhi ashram

Song Lyrics - this was sung by an interfaith choir (13 faiths) at the Gandhi ashram

Rep. John Lewis, Martin Luther King III, Mrs. King, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee - singing We Shall Overcome with the choir

Rep. John Lewis, Martin Luther King III, Mrs. King, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee - singing "We Shall Overcome" with the choir

Hundreds of schoolchildren came to the ashram to meet and talk with MLK III and the members of Congress

Hundreds of schoolchildren came to the ashram to meet and talk with MLK III and the members of Congress

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Geophagy

Posted in Generalities, Human Rights, On the Internet at 3:45 pm by graceandpoise

In the “you learn something new every day” category:  a news article from Yahoo highlighting the effects of rising food prices on some of the most vulnerable among us.  However discontented we may sometimes feel, I’m sure most of us don’t thank our lucky stars nearly often enough.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Soapbox

Posted in Human Rights, Korea at 11:40 am by graceandpoise

Every now and then I come across something that gets under my skin and provokes me to climb up onto my soap box and say something about it.  This month, it seems it is a story in the International Herald Tribune about a young man who was born into a prison camp.  Generally, even in places where slavery still exists, the children are not automatically slaves these days.  But this story would seem to suggest that, not very far from where I am living these days, several generations are brutally punished and made to do hard labor for their entire lives because of the sins of an ancestor or relative.  The punishment is truly reprehensible.  The fact that it is meted out to those who have committed no crime is utterly unforgivable.  And the results of all of this are so, so sad.