“Who will go first?” Lee heard the question as if the train engines rumbling past, playing hide-and-seek through the treed hedges at the edge of the grocery store carpark, had blasted the words with warning horns at the road crossing next to the neighbourhood recycling centre.
Word-by-word, phrase-by-prepositional-phrase, his thoughts followed in unison.
At what level of explanation did he need to understand the recent crossroad of decisions concerning a group of people intent on fighting each other over philosophical differences, yet another internal squabble that had little to do with Lee directly but much to do with his understanding of human suffering and politically-centred international commerce.
What of his species had been accomplished without military involvement? What of his species had been sustained with military involvement?
What did the word “military” mean, exactly, another dictionary definition that barely had anything to do with complicated interaction between sets of states of energy that had convinced themselves they were separate from the universe, independently able to make their way above, across and under the earth?
For some, the ironic battle cry was “War is not the answer.”
For others, the rallying quote was “Evangelism is one beggar telling another where to find bread.” [Credited to D. T. Niles]
In this cultural rewind, forgotten from generation to generation, ad infinitum, of the popular (and not so popular) definitions of gender roles, what constituted the aggressive “testosterone” version of international aid and what constituted the sympathetic “estrogen” version?
In a situation like this, Lee was not confused.
He knew he depended on the whole species for answers that were never final, constantly re-evaluated and reworked as much as an individual’s set of states of energy fluctuated from moment to moment despite our willingness to give a set a name like Dick or Jane as if the name alone meant that a set of states of energy at seven years of age was in any way the same as the set at 70 years of age that collected more memories and changes in cell structures, organ health, etc.
The answers were not simple, Lee knew that.
He looked at his current set of friends, comparing them to friends from the past, friends he had met because of mandatory school attendance or by self-deception that having a job was mandatory to be a fully-responsible member of a hierarchical culture.
His personality determined the people with whom he connected best who changed his personality, thus changing the next types of people with whom he connected best — a cycle of change that did not complete a single revolution, leading to new loops that swooped in and out of each other like the drawing of a Celtic animal in a geometric pattern.
Lee looked back but he also looked forward.
What gave him hope?
Was it the moment his wife, Karen, finally told him, “Go on. I know I’m slowing you down. I’ll be all right.”, without lacing the words with guilt-inducing tones?
Did he call that a healing moment that gave both of them a freedom they had not willingly conceded due to a deep-seated uncertainty about the early days of their relationship, before they were married, when Lee dated many women at once, Karen often feeling ignored, he always focused on Karen as a stable part of his life who met much but not all of his gender-driven needs?
Hadn’t they survived the transition from platonic friends to trusting lovers without their relationship falling apart when they were tested later on by shocking deaths in the family and outside temptations including demanding work schedules that kept them apart for months at a time, halfway ’round the world, calling each other almost everyday, feeling guilty if they hadn’t, sharing every sordid details about their separate existence?
Trust and flexibility applied at macro levels, too, didn’t they?
What solution did his species find to resolve the military-based conflict between two groups of people in Syria?
How many medical discoveries were funded by governments that employed military-style bureaucracies?
How many social programs were initiated because of wartime conflict?
The only way to get two opponents together was to let them know they could.
“Who will go first?” What did that mean — who would step forward first or who would be the first to die?
For Lee’s family and his subculture, the local issues at stake for Syrians seemed inconsequential. Freedom from tyranny? Access to better healthcare? These were the same unanswered questions plaguing Americans: the cruel tyranny of international commerce that shone a blind eye toward un/underemployed Americans; healthcare costs spiraling upward out of control.
Lee’s subculture wanted its answers first before some small country full of people killing each other indiscriminately would seem worth unexplained government involvement, adding more military/international aid expenditures to the national debt accumulation.
How relieved Lee felt when Karen dropped the guilt complex from their relationship, aided by their recent friendships with Eoj, Bai and Guin, the latter at first a perceived threat to Karen and her marriage to Lee until she realised that Lee’s love for new friends willing to push Lee to become a better person did not diminish his longterm love for Karen, he ignoring her in the shortterm to become a closer friend for life. Lee had not changed who he was before or after their marriage but Karen sometimes lost sight of the big picture.
The same could be said for international relationships.
The United States of America had often stepped up to be the responsible adult in the room, bullying its way into a crowded room full of countries with questionable agendas, bettering the world economy in the longterm.
History is an illusion but still useful for establishing goals that indicated consistent trends.
Syria was not a single person with simple needs.
Neither is freedom.
Listening to all sides of an argument takes patience and understanding that some people will be unhappy, no matter what, and others’ happiness will change for the better, relatively speaking, when asked to get involved improving the miserable life of people they may never to go know.
A part-time worker in a US retail store, living week-by-week, may just feel a little happier knowing that her country was able to help someone in worse shape even if both of them end up living week-by-week in the future.
How do we give people hope that international corporations competing for Syria’s marketplace potential is in their best interest?
Lee didn’t convince Karen that their separately and together going through a myriad of emotional uncertainty when Lee spent more time breaking down his personal space and getting rid of old thought patterns while practicing dance routines with Bai and Guin, spending hours alone with them, would strengthen their friendship that existed outside of labels like “marriage,” “husband,” “wife,” “military” and other arbitrary symbols imposed upon them by a subculture that grew and changed with them.
Karen had to see it for herself.
Sometimes, you don’t ask permission and you don’t ask for forgiveness, either — you let your actions speak for themselves when you choose to go first, knowing you’ve got the best interests of people in your thoughts through-and-through, even though circumstances will change people’s perception over time, good or bad in the short-term.
Integrity speaks for itself, not beholden to the whimsical interpretations of morals by subcultures distracted toward flavour-of-the-month scandals — it was right to help one group of people who called themselves Syrians with as much conviction as their opponents — sometimes we compete with bullets, sometimes we compete with love, and sometimes we compete for the best-looking PE ratio reflecting strong quarterly earnings and a growing stock price, public opinion and newspaper tests a forgotten afterthought, telling the people there’s a higher chance their fortunes will increase, a rising tide helping all of them, if we do something rather than sit by and watch, doing nothing to support a country’s defenseless citizens crying for help.