Monday, March 24, 2008

Something to think about...

This one has been brewing for a while, but a conversation between John and his brother spurred me to write it down. Imagine with me...

You give a car to a 16-year-old boy. Now, it seems this boy has spent his life elsewhere (in a third-world country, in a deeply Amish community, under a rock, wherever) because he has never before seen a car. So, after you declare, "This is your car!", one of several scenarios can play out. Here are a few options:

Scenario 1: You introduce the young boy to his machine. You take the time to explain all of the mechanics of an automobile - the key goes in here, the accelerator is the vertical pedal on the right, this lever makes the turn signals blink, gas goes in the tank via this hole, etc. You then explain the rules of the road to this boy - we drive on the right, red means stop, green means go, you can go faster on the interstate than in a neighborhood, etc. Lastly, you put the parts together, and teach this young man to drive, both by taking him for a ride on the road, and then by riding with him as he is behind the wheel.

Now, this entire process would take a lot of time and energy. You might miss a couple of dinners with your family, but ultimately, you will have given this person a great gift that he will be able to use the rest of his life. He will eventually be able to use this car and his driving ability to get to school, and later, to work. And who knows, you may someday be injured, or have car trouble, and he will be able to drive you to your destination.

Scenario 2: You go back into your house, have dinner with your family, and then all sit down to watch a movie. The young boy teaches himself to drive, and you occasionally wave as you see him on the road.

Scenario 3: You go back into your house, have dinner with your family, and then all sit down to watch a movie. A neighbor (who dislikes you) befriends the young boy, and explains to him that you are a bad person for just giving him this machine, and then leaving him to figure it out by himself. This neighbor nurtures the boy's anger toward you while teaching him to drive. And by the time the boy has learned to operate the car, his hatred is such that he drives through your picture window and kills your family in front of the television.

Obviously, this is all a dramatization, but think about it.

What is the right thing to do?

What would you do?

Now, continue to imagine...

"You" are the United States.

The "boy" is Iraq.

The "car" is a brand new model called "Freedom".


Maria said...

I think we need to reframe the story--

The boy knows what a car is and parts of him were really pumped about pursuing the aquisition of one, but he didn't want you to buy it for him. In fact, he repeatedly said "No, don't buy me one, I'll fail the driving test if you force me to do this your way!"

But you insisted--Parts of you have been planning to buy this boy a car for the last 20 years, you're sure it's what's best for the boy and if you can't talk to him about it (talking takes A LOT of energy!) then you'll just do this for him regardless of what he or the rest of your neighbors think.

So you go ahead with your plan and even though some of you and some of your neighbors are dying--he's a crap driver (and here's where the metephor gets tricky)and you're having to kill more and more of the boy everyday (you've actually had to pay private companies to do the killing for you because there just isn't enough of you left to do the "teaching."), you keep insisting this boy will start driving exactly the way you do.
You can't seem to accept that where he'll be driving things can be don a little differently, In fact, the driving culture of his home country is fundamentally different from the driving culture of yoursbut youinsist he learn to drive the way you do.

By the way, his basic services are failing him every day (ie-infrastructure, access to medical care, security) but he has to get this driving thing down even if it kills both him and you.

Maybe, at this point, it would be better to say "You know what, I F***ed up, and I really want to talk to you and your neighbors about how to make this situation right but I have to stop being your driving instructor. I'll be here for support but I'm going to take myself out of the driver's seat. I won't be far away, I still want to be actively involved in this process but this is clearly not working out (honestly, I can look back at tapes of myself from a few years ago saying 'I can't buy this kid a car, he doesn't want me to teach him how to drive') and I think that there are other ways to approach this whole 'getting you your liscence' thing. Let's look, together with our neighbors, at all the other options on the table."

Marly said...

I was hoping to bring out some different viewpoints and opinions. Thank you, Maria!