What Can Citizens Say to be Heard?

Via on Aug 29, 2013

 The White House by Justin Brown on FLickr

Photo: Justin Brown

In following the developing crisis in the Middle East, I have come to feel a bit helpless.

We don’t get to vote on whether or not we start bombing Syria. Posting news reports on Facebook feels like a flaccid exercise. Speaking to friends and family about it, regardless of their position, results in avoidance of what is obviously an uncomfortable topic.

We are poised upon the precipice of one of the most dangerous moments in world history. I have strong opinions about what should and shouldn’t be done, and I don’t know what to do about it. I am a well-informed citizen living in what purports to be a democracy.

What is my recourse for being heard?

Not knowing what else to do, I composed the following letter and submitted it via the Contact Us form at WhiteHouse.gov. I am skeptical anyone at the White House will ever read this letter, but I had to do something.

Apparently, I am not the only one who feels this impulse.

I encourage you to join us. My letter may not get read, but if there are thousands like it, chances are some of them will. I don’t know if it will make any difference. I don’t know what can be said to get through to these people we call “leaders,” but we’ve got to try.

Otherwise, what are we doing?

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 10.12.48 PM

You are invited to copy and submit any section of this letter which you feel accurately describes your own feelings.

President Obama,

I am strongly opposed to military intervention in Syria. Nothing can be gained by engaging in this conflict.

More than 90% of the US population is with me on this issue. If you allow the planned attacks to proceed, this will be the most unpopular war in the history of the U.S., if not the world.

Instead of committing resources to another arbitrary war, we need to invest in education and infrastructure within our own borders. Actions define priorities; what are yours?

Make no mistake: if we attack Syria it will be a war of choice—a war of aggression—which is considered the worst war-crime possible under international law. These consequences will be far worse than those of any scandal currently engulfing the Beltway (I will spare you the listing of said scandals).

Worst of all, any attack is likely to lead to global conflict on a terrifying scale. Russia, China and Iran have very clearly established their position in this scenario. Regardless of our stated intent to perform limited air strikes, there is an imminent and unacceptable risk of becoming engaged in a long, drawn out confrontation in which innocent persons of many nations will suffer and die.

Before you allow actions taken on behalf of American citizens to spark a third World War, I beg you to deescalate the situation. There must be a diplomatic solution.

You have the power and ripe opportunity to shift the arc of history in the direction of justice and peace. Imagine yourself as a Nobel Peace Laureate, and imagine what such a person would do at this critical juncture in the world story.

Be not swayed by your over-zealous colleagues and war-mongering contemporaries. Instead, please be guided by your own highest ideals, and see what can be achieved. In seeking peace, we the people are with you.

Respectfully, with love, compassion and firm conviction,

David T. McConaghay

 Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 5.12.30 PM

A good friend of mine agreed with my premise, but decried my “soft-ass language.” He suggested his own wording, which went something like this:

“Dear F#ck Face,

I understand Afghanistan is winding down and you’ve got contractors to feed, but we have spent enough on your ‘for profit’ war business. I know you huffed and puffed and threatened to blow the Bashar’s house down, but he’s not budging because he’s got Iran and Russia on his side, but you already knew that; and that’s the real impetus behind this strike. You’ve had it up to your ears with Putin’s lack of respect and Iran’s posturing and you want them to pay for it.

We, the people, are sick and tired of being dragged into your juvenile slapping matches with our soldiers and our wallets taking the blows while you orchestrate destruction with a maestro’s wand. Third time’s a charm, maybe you’ll piss enough people off this time around to incite a violent rebuke from your own citizens. Then you can let loose the hounds to ‘maintain order’ and Russia can send over some bombers to disband your oppressive regime, you ^&%* mother *^%%^& son of a *^$$%& (*&^ pole &^%$ gremlin *&%^& little *&%$^…”

I very much share his passion, however I prefer to “kill them with kindness,” as it were. If I become barbaric in opposing barbarians, what have we gained? Where are we left?

Please share your thoughts and feelings far and wide, and let your friends, family, government and fellow world citizens know how you feel about the current crisis. Thank you.

Om Namo Narayanaya

 

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Ed: Cat Beekmans

About David McConaghay

David Telfer McConaghay was conceived in Toronto, born in North Carolina, and lived in Washington D.C. and Tokyo before arriving in Minneapolis at the age of 8. At 16 he moved to Connecticut, and has since inhabited D.C. for four more years, an island in Wisconsin, an ashram in Northern California, a national park in Maine, and taught English in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Bogota, Colombia before landing in Boulder, Colorado at the start of 2011. He loves all humans, but feels unique fondness for Jorge Luis Borges, Swami Sivananda, and Lionel Messi. David's personal website is www.masteringmetaphysics.com. He is an ambassador for GaiamTV.com/Dave and you are invited to email ElephantGentleman at gmail dot com or follow him on Twitter.

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14 Responses to “What Can Citizens Say to be Heard?”

  1. Erica Leibrandt Erica says:

    Wonderful, I'm sharing right now. Thank you.

  2. Puanani says:

    Thank you for the nudge. My letter to the President:

    Dear President Obama,

    I appeal to you as a fellow Punahou alum and ask you to have the courage to lead our nation at this crucial time. I cannot believe that military intervention is the only possible response to the actions of the Syrian government. I realize that it may feel as though a military response is the most immediate and forceful way to respond, but I also wonder if it is not the most expected way to respond. I wonder what would happen if the United States of America chose to respond in an unexpected way. I wonder what would happen if the United States of America chose to respond with loving guidance, similar to the way you might respond if one of your daughters chose to ignore the rules. It is really not so different. Darkness cannot overcome darkness, only light can. What light can the United States of America share in this time of darkness? How can we reclaim our moral center if we allow ourselves to be pulled off course by the heinous actions of the Syrian government? I realize that a more "light-filled" response will probably not result in an immediate solution, but, I encourage you to remember the moral values that were instilled in us a Punahou – each person has inherent worth and dignity, both those whom we love and those with whom we disagree. It is easy to have a compassionate response for those whom we understand, you have been raised to have compassion for those whom we cannot understand. I believe, too, that you are so much more capable than you have been "allowed" to be. You have a vision that is worthy of being upheld. I stand with you in supporting your call to change the way things are done.

    Thank you.

  3. BBolder says:

    This letter reads like a childish rebellion against perceived authority, makes no attempt to be informed of the situation, and attempts to create fear with hysterical projections of negative outcomes.

    I strongly support a calculated military strike for humanitarian purposes, and am disappointed Pres Obama is moving so slowly.

    Over 100,000 people have been killed in Syria, about 600 by being tortured to death, and approximately 1,300, mostly civilians, were recently killed by chemical warfare which of course has long been banned after agreement and discussion by the international community. The Syrian government is killing it's own people at a rate that is hard to comprehend.

    The US has no intention of entering this war; we would instead send a quick punishment to warn the Syrian government to stop using chemical weapons. It's quite simple: They have run a red light. That is dangerous and against international law. So we will issue them a ticket and make them pay a small fine.

    All societies, all over the world, thuout history, always have and always will manage themselves by setting rules and then enforcing them. I suppose there's another planet where everyone can do whatever they want, but I don't think you'd want to live there any more than I would.

    • DaveTelf says:

      BBolder, you position is valid. Allow me to respond to some of your points.

      I fully admit to childish naivete re: waging war. That is, I have zero tolerance for any of the violence that runs rampant on the planet, and can't even begin to conceptualize why anyone needs to resort to such terrible means. There is always a diplomatic option, a powerfully peaceful approach that will not react to violence with more inflammatory violence.

      Having thoroughly informed myself of the situation from as diverse a set of sources as possible, this letter expresses my considered position on the scenario. I am still composing a post intended as a more informational synopsis of the situation, hopefully to provide better context for why I feel the way I do. It's a tricky process to make it readable, since there are so many different sources of overlapping and contradicting information available out there.

      The point of this post was to motivate others to participate in their democracy. Note how I invite people to share their own thoughts and feelings. It was more about a call to action, and for example, here's what I said.

      I perceive that the final authority in this matter is out of my hands. You think the attempt to claim agency by expressing a particular viewpoint amounts to childish rebellion against perceived authority? Whereas I perceive that war-machine authority to be very real, and very well worth rebelling against.

      At no point is there an "attempt to create fear with hysterical projections." I point to the fact of the matter, which is that many powerful nations around the world are aligned against any sort of intervention. My statement there is actually quite rational, as concerns the likely response from these nations if the US goes ahead with a unilateral strike. The warnings have been issued. Just doing my best to point out the reality of the situation.

      Regarding the violence on the ground, I agree that there appear to have been brutal tactics employed by both sides in this battle. However, the following set of questions does a lot to cut through some of the official narratives surrounding the constant atrocities. http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/26-08

      And your statement "The US has no intention of entering this war" is disingenuous at best. Of course They (we) do. They've been trying to set it up and justify it for years now. Inform yourself of the real history and discover the ways in which US-backed terrorist groups have been attempting to sabotage Assad for years.

      And the analogy of a traffic ticket is shallow, an inhumane oversimplification. How nice to think it works out so nice and clean as that. In this case, what you call "a small fine" equates to cruise missiles raining down over a metropolis. What part of that seems likely to soothe the situation towards an equitable, peaceful outcome?

      • BBolder says:

        Thank you for your thoughtful and considered Reply.

        The situation does indeed require careful and courageous examination, because after the insane catastrophes in Iran and Afghanistan (and others previous), it's very easy to shout, "Peace is the only way!" throw up our hands, and walk away (or get angry). But as I said, quite factually that isn't the way any society, large or small, has ever worked in the history of this world. We make rules so people can be safe and secure, and if the rules are broken, we try to enforce them. That system is certainly fraught with peril, as who makes the rules, the intent of the rules, and how they are enforced very often becomes the problem itself, but that is what we do and what we have to do – unfortunately few issues are black and white – living our lives requires serious consideration, judgement, and participation.

        Citizens in Syria really don't want to be nerve gassed by Sarin by their own government – they are begging us for intervention – and not sure who was planning on "cruise missiles raining down on a metropolis" but don't think it was the US.

        It's very easy to comfortably decry any help as "war mongering" when one has been "rattling around the planet living the dream", but as I'm sure you know, few other people on this planet have the luxury of our safe and easy lifestyle. Ones perspective is very different when fighter jets from your own government are bombing your home, compared with when one "excels at team sports and sleeping".

        • DaveTelf says:

          Given that you know nothing about the particular circumstances of my life, I'll ask you to leave the personal snipes out of this conversation. Pulling little quotes from my goofy profile does little to bolster your argument that the US should attack Syria.

          I acknowledge the privileged position into which I was born, and over the years have done a great deal of work investigating and coming to terms with my relationship to the shameful imbalances that exist in the world. Like most everyone else I know, I am simply doing the best I can with what I've got, and feel no need to apologize for the fact of my existence.

          Please note that I am not throwing up my hands, walking away, or getting angry. The fact that I live comfortably does not make me comfortable with any government bombing anyone's home. The motivation for this letter is rooted in the desire to alleviate the suffering of all concerned. It is my stated opinion that more missiles will lead to greater suffering, and are therefore counterproductive. There is no reason why everyone can't live as comfortably as I do, and again, the pursuit of that world requires less bomb-dropping, not more.

          Are Syrians begging us for intervention? Do you have a source for that info? I've been seeing reports that 70% of the population supports Assad, and that more and more of the rebels are understood to be foreign mercenaries. Seems the majority of the population are no real fans of Assad, but see the rebels as far more dangerous and destabilizing. Hard to know anything for sure with all the contradictory info out there.

          The evidence that it was, in fact, the Assad gov't that launched these most recent attacks is far from conclusive. I am curious to see what the UN inspectors report comes back with, and grateful to see Obama respecting the process of requesting congressional approval for military action. Still hoping cooler heads will prevail.

        • DaveTelf says:

          "The way to uphold the rule of law is by consistent example and through prosecutions by courts, not vigilantism."
          http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/09/caveman-cr

  4. Linda says:

    I am impressed with the content of the letters. Very well written. Shared on FB.

  5. napoline says:

    Thanks to everyone hates war!
    thank you very much!
    you want USA to go on killing us! like " destroying VIETNAM to survive it"
    who told you "The Syrian government is killing it's own people at a rate that is hard to comprehend. "
    think a little : QAEDA want to kill SYRIA . and USA stand by it.
    we love peace and " IN GOD WE TRUST" really!!!

    • DaveTelf says:

      Blessings to you Napoline.

      Many people around the world know al-qaeda as "al CIA-duh".

      It would go a long way towards ending this conflict if the US would just stop arming and supporting the "rebels"

      In pursuit of peace and justice!

  6. rectalcancermyass says:

    I really like letter #2 and decided to go with that…maybe it will get someone's attention.

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