Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Uh-Oh -- Catch UP!

Hey Guys,

I decided to step on my computer screen, thereby cutting my daily computer access in half.


Quickly, a re-cap of the activities in the past 11 days (again... not in order at all):

- 2 conference calls (one with Fair Trade the White House Campaign -- www.fairtradethewhitehouse.com, the other about a e-mail action alert, asking thousands to call in to Hershey's HQ in PA and ask them to go fair trade)
- A nice CAP presentation (Middle East, Democracy, and Human Rights -- more on this at the end)
- Finished the Fair Trade Alliance Newsletter, my boss is sending it out today :)
- Got my application for CAP's Campus Progress conference accepted, and also got accepted to the Grassroots Training Day and Lobby Day on Capitol Hill
- Had breakfast with former Harvard Institute of Politics Director, and now Senator of New Hampshire, Jean Shaheen. Had a nice talk with her about domestic climate change policy vs. int'l climate change negotiations w/China... very down to earth, nice woman.
- Had some interesting times with fun people
- Was quite embarrassed at the Ultimate Frisbee Clinic... we have a game on Wednesday.
- Spent the weekend with my 10 year-old cousin, Dana. Very relaxing, played Wii, went to the pool, fun stuff.
- Saw the Phillips Museum (for free) and heard the most amazing Xylephone player (apparently world-renowned) jam out in the museum's auditorium. I really like that museum, and I also bought a $1 print there called "The Uprising" and on the print it says it is undated... but you can find the date online!
- Free Sausage Paella at the Dupont Farmers' Market... out of a 6-foot diameter pan... amazing.
- Danced some African dance at the Drum Circle on Sunday. Crazy people...
- More long phone conversations
- Lots of cooking: (sweet potato fries, risotto sweet potato and carrot pilaf, chickpea and fava bean soup, among other things)
- Helped my brother, Jerry, plant his basil, mint, and oregano.
- Met a wise man named Gordon at the CAP thing. He was very cool.
- Also met a woman who works for Southern Command (with the DOD) regarding Human Rights in Latin America... good networking.
- Ran into Art Richey (just about). He seemed very distracted.
- Called Dell about the laptop. Great, wonderful, productive conversation. I wish they spoke more like humans...

The event was entitled something like "Democracy, Human Rights, and Peace in the Middle East", but I feel that the panelists focused very little on human rights and instead painted a picture and dynamic of Western Democracy that I happen to fundamentally disagree with...

The issue of what to do with the Guantamano detainees, also related was the issue in Abu Ghraib, Morocco, China, etc... all surrounding it was a discussion of expected delays due to Obama's need for a "Comprehensive Plan" to send to the Senate on the step-by-step plan for Guantanamo, and ongoing negotiations with European Allies on their assistance with the detainees. This is all expected to take at least until the end of the year.

Meanwhile, while Obama's "rock-star" image stands fervently behind his words (at this point, only his words), judging by his Cairo speech last week, I feel like the concept of "public image" as a whole has taken a disturbing precedent over human rights.

What I mean is that Obama's image, the US's political posturing (such as placing domestic security over human rights), and the EU's timidness all seem to give me the impression that these people are not being seen as people first.

Rather, they are seen, treated, and discussed about as if they are detainees and political nuisances first, and seem to have already, in some ways, been attributed with the titles of "terrorist" and "criminal", for which they have not yet been convicted (by the way).

It is just me, or is altruism typically synonymous with democracy? Since when did this change?

This is wrong. As we sit in this wonderfully luxurious and air-conditioned room, eating our expensive Whole Foods salmon-asparagus sandwiches, these people are suffering. They are in terrible conditions, mistreated in many cases, perhaps tortured (although no longer in Guantanamo, this continues in Morocco). Our mistreatment of them provokes and encourages the jihadism and mujaheddin we seek to subvert, ironically enough. To me, this precedance of "Public Image" and "Political Functionality" over human rights is a fundamental problem with the perception and implementation of Western Democracy.

Obama speaks well, but calling for "reflection" in his Cairo speech is not only selfish, but it is downright ignorant -- in a time where revolution, action, and immediate change is needed, more "reflection" is the last thing the world needs.


- And now... I am leaving in an hour to CBS studios for a free tour and discussion with one of their correspondents and former Harvard IOP fellow, Dotty Lynch.

Farewell for now.

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