These days the world seems increasingly frightening. You only have to turn on the news to be inundated with horror stories of violence and sorrow. Every day it seems a new tragedy strikes our world. It’s easy to wonder what happened. What caused this increase in pain? I’ve spoken to many young adults of my generation and heard them asking this and similar questions. Studying history has led me to an uneasy answer—it hasn’t increased. The world is no more messed up than it was in the past. In fact, many aspects of society have improved. Death rates have decreased and many victims now have legal recourse against assailants. For much of history, most victims of violent crimes had to suffer in silence. So what did change? Why does the world appear so much worse?
The short answer is technology. Through radio, television, and now internet, we see atrocities. We know the death tolls and the faces of the victims. We see the results, and we hear of these occurrences immediately. The other change is actually positive—we care more. Most ancient civilizations had at least one group of people they considered lesser, sometimes not even seeing them as human. This mindset led to the targeting of women, children, and minorities often with little to no societal or legal repercussion. Today, most people have a visceral reaction against such ideas. Thus, when a shooting or rape occurs and is reported, most people are upset and offended. This shows how far we’ve come.
The problem is the people who haven’t progressed with the rest of humanity. Some people still look at certain groups and deny their personhood. Does an individual renounce their humanity when they move to a new country or they choose someone to date? Of course they don’t. So it’s time to stop living in the Dark Ages. Murder is a crime. Rape is a crime. The victim is a person, so there is no excuse for the perpetrator. It doesn’t matter what boxes we can fit them into, we’re all humans. We live in the 21st century. Don’t let fear or hatred turn back the clock on society.
I sit here in this place that has become my home and think. I’ve become so accustomed to this inn and these friends and the laughter and stories that we’ve shared. A lot has changed over the months here though. Many friendships have grown, though some have faded. Some paths have converged, while others have split, leading us apart. I’ve met some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and also lost contact with some of my friends from childhood.
It’s not just the group that has the changed though—I have changed. I have been assured by my friends that I’m very different than the girl who came to college last semester. The months have worked their magic and aged me. I have become more relaxed, more open to others, and more cautious with my words. I have learned more than I could have dreamed. Topics I once knew nothing about, I can now hold an intelligent conversation concerning. This semester I was involved in another political discussion group, again joining with other students to watch the weather of the world. After the first few weeks, I noticed that my fellow group members, knowing my field of interest and study, would ask me about economic issues in Asia. At first, I really didn’t think I was qualified to give any sort of response. However, I began to see a change in my answers as they became tolerably informed. I am by no means an expert, but I know enough now to analyze and think critically and give informed opinions.
The opportunities I’ve had this year have been innumerable. I’ve gotten to sit down and talk to academics and business executives. I’ve traveled to new parts of my country, while preparing for my first flight abroad. I’ve made friends from throughout the world, even from my own corner of it. As much as I’m excited to fly next week and start my journey abroad, I’m a bit sad at the thought of leaving this inn and this fireplace. However, I know I will return. And when I do, I will be a bit older and a bit wiser than I am now. Such is life. Even returning to the same place, I’m not really the same person who left. But I don’t believe that’s a bad thing.
In 62 days I begin my first great flight. In 63 days, I will step out onto the soil of another country for the first time in my life. I’ve been planning this flight for so long, but now it’s so close. 62 days does not seem very long at all. These days could be the slowest of my life, but I doubt it. I expect them to fly by. I’ve always wanted to go to China, and I’m about to finally be there. A childhood dream will have become reality. I had many fantasies as a child, but few true dreams. This is one of them. Standing on top of the Great Wall; gazing upon the Forbidden City; actually seeing a giant panda; these are events that I always dreamed of but never expected to truly happen. In my mind, the chance of such a thing occurring was little better than the chance of walking through Lothlorien. And yet, 62 days. As I watch the clouds part and stretch out my wings, I can feel a spectacular wind at my back. Soon, very soon, I will let it carry me aloft and whisk me into the realm of my dreams. 62 days. 1,486 hours. 89,220 minutes. The day is coming. I’m ready.
The world is in a state of turbulence; this is a pretty standard belief. But the average standard of living is higher now than ever before in history. The American people are also, on average, safer and more prosperous than ever. So why do we characterize the world as turbulent? It was this question address by Dr. Thomas Finger, a faculty member at Stanford University and former Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis of the State Department, in his keynote address to round out this year’s International Studies Symposium at the University of Oklahoma.
The world is moving forward and upward, true, but there is still turbulence. This is because, for once, we can’t see the future. We do have enemies today, but they are much harder to identify than in the past. We used to know our enemy, whether Nazi Germany or the communist regime of the USSR. However, using Dr. Finger’s analogy, we have traded in a dragon for baskets of snakes. We cannot focus our energies on a single target, and each of our snakes has to be handled in a different way. Thus, we need to redefine how we deal with the world’s turbulence. Also, part of our problem is the change that has occurred in our definition of national security. We once defined national security in terms of the safety of the US homeland. Now, we have decided that all US citizens must be safe at all times no matter where they are and for what reason. How can we commit to such a promise? Is it even our place to risk our armed forces to save those who intentionally put themselves in harm’s way in the pursuit of glory or riches? I don’t know, but I do know that we need to decide what we can commit to and what is not our battle. The turbulence of this day is different than any we’ve faced before. We need to recognize our new breeds of enemies and develop new methods to fight them while preventing our paranoia from creating more. Our uncertainty cannot be allowed to destabilize us. We must move forward, regardless of the clarity of our horizons.
This post will be a two parter! First, I shall complain/report on the odd weather that takes place in Oklahoma. All this week, it has been bitterly cold. Today, however, has been nice. It’s cold, but not too cold. My roommate shared that it will be warmer this weekend. If the weather could stop being so crazy, I’d be fine with that.
But this has me thinking…
What will the weather be like in Italy?
I shall do some research over the weekend, and post past weather trends for Italy.
Then, when I actually go to Italy, I will report on the weather!
On a side note, I had the opportunity to donate/voluenteer for the blood drive today!
When I was young I never cared about politics or the news. It didn’t concern me, or so I thought. However, I’ve grown up since then, and, in doing so, I learned a very important lesson: when you’re getting ready to fly, you need to know the weather. Politics, the news, these make up the weather of humanity. So now, I am making an effort to understand the weather in order to be more prepared for my coming flights.
Since arriving here at the University of Oklahoma, I’ve been searching out ways in which to watch the global weather. One way I found was to join a political discussion group. In these groups, a few students will come together weekly and read articles in the Economist, a British news magazine of sorts. I love the system, because we each read the articles that most interest us and then summarize them for the group. This gives me both the resources and impetus to research topics of interest to me while also learning about what is occurring elsewhere.
I found another opportunity in the President’s Associates Dinners. Throughout the school year at OU President Boren will invite prominent men and women to speak at his President’s Associates Dinners. I had the opportunity recently to attend an informal discussion with President Boren and his most recent Dinner guest, Dr. Bob Gates, former Secretary of Defense and former Director of the CIA. It was fascinating to hear his practical opinions on a variety of topics that I was only familiar with from an academic standpoint. From drones to international aid, Dr. Gates covered a wide range of topics of both domestic and international significance. I cannot go into all the topics Dr. Gates discussed; however, they were all informative, and his logic was always sound as far as I could tell. Because of his talk, I now have a better idea of the roles of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense in the administration of our country.
The variety of tools I have found here at OU to aid me as I try to watch over world affairs has been incredible. I love learning from such a wide range of perspectives. I hope I can continue to find ways of watching the weather in preparation for my coming flights. The skies are calling to me, and I’m slowly but surely nearing the date of my first major departure. All I can do now is try to make sure that I’m ready for it.