Thursday, January 27, 2011

Odds and Ends

Today's January 27, which is Int'l Holocaust Remembrance Day for those of us who choose to remember and who choose to think of the significance surrounding such a day. President Obama put out a press release on the day, as he did for other topics this morning, one of which was the murder of a gay Ugandan man, savagely beaten to death for speaking out on behalf of homosexuals in Uganda.

Perhaps most importantly, Int'l Holocaust Remembrance Day is an opportunity to not just think about European Jewry and the horrors that would nearly wipe it out 60+ years ago, but the other genocides that have occurred since, especially when the words 'never again' have been uttered numerous times. Those two words ring hollow to the ears of those people in the world who strive to prevent mass murders from happening. They also ring hollow when you look at cases like Bosnia and Rwanda, where the UN was on the ground, charged to keep the peace. And yet, in both instances, systematic mass murder followed, and perhaps, if it wasn't for Bill Clinton and others, it may have happened again in Kosovo in 1999. The threat of genocide is here with us today, as it was 70 years ago.

On the topic of Uganda and the brutal murder, I do not know enough about the country nor am I a close enough follower of issues surrounding the LGBT community to comment on it intelligently. Suffice to say, I support their efforts to solidify the same rights that majority populations enjoy, including marriage. I know from watching Rachel Maddow's show last year that Uganda has a real problem vis-a-vis their LGBT communities and efforts need to be put forth to mitigate the inflammatory rhetoric spouted off by their politicians and others. A couple of articles on HuffPost, here and here, advocate cutting off aid to Uganda in response. Again, not being entirely informed, I hesitate to put forth an opinion; but clearly, if the U.S. is sending aid to Uganda used by organizations that perpetuate hateful rhetoric targeted at the LGBT community, it must re-evaluate what it is doing if not stop entirely. With that said, the U.S. has some work to do in its own backyard vis-a-vis extending equal rights to the LGBT community as well.

As far as I know, Tunisia, Egypt, Albania, and today Yemen, have seen citizens taking to the streets protesting their present regimes. If there's anything to learn from this show of citizenry power, it's that the U.S. doesn't have to export democracy by force, nor should it in my view. Give an oppressive leader enough string, and they will eventually hang themselves. These nations, Belarus as well, somehow need to find what Poland found 30 years ago when Lech Walesa put forth what would become the Solidarity Movement. Eventually, democracy has the potential to take root, and with it, a free market economy.

And finally, tomorrow is Friday, January 28, one full year since I was rejected for a Fulbright to Poland. It does not seem like a year, for I remember the circumstances of the day prior, the day of and the weekend I was going into clearly. The email arrived at 5:24 pm. I received it after 7 pm. The next day, I had to be up at 3am to be at work for 4 to deal with changes JetBlue was making to its reservation system. The day prior, one year ago at this writing, I was in Polish class, beginning my second semester. I remember glazing over the first sentence of the email, the thank you for applying nicety, and getting to the second sentence, the one that started with the word "Unfortunately." I knew without reading the remainder what it was going to say. It bothers me to this day.

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