|United States Army Recruiting Station, Los Angeles|
When I pulled into the parking lot of Sophie's high school this morning, it was hard not to notice the array of camouflaged tents, trucks and soldiers spread out over the huge parking lot. It's gray in Los Angeles this morning, and when you don't have the patriotic gene , the sight of army recruiters at a city high school doesn't make you feel a surge of pride in your country. Call me unpatriotic, but I don't like teenagers to be recruited to fight for their country in the parking lots of their high schools. I don't care if they're promised an education, glory or one hundred vestal virgins in heaven. You're not going to see this scene a few miles away in the parking lot of a prestigious private school, peopled with the tender and the privileged. And no, I don't have an answer for how we're supposed to find kids to fight wars in countries like Iran and Afghanistan. I don't have an alternative, so I'll just sit in my car and steam a bit while I wait for Sophie's aide to come and get her.
The other day, Kim of Art in Red Wagons left a great comment after I posted about my struggles with moderation in politics. She spoke of tolerance and directed me to a very interesting and eye-opening statement of tolerance as dictated by UNESCO, in 1995. Here's an excerpt that struck me, in particular:
Article 1 - Meaning of tolerance
1.1 Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty, it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.
1.2 Tolerance is not concession, condescension or indulgence. Tolerance is, above all, an active attitude prompted by recognition of the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. In no circumstance can it be used to justify infringements of these fundamental values. Tolerance is to be exercised by individuals, groups and States.
1.3 Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments.
1.4 Consistent with respect for human rights, the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one's convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one's own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs. It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behaviour and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one's views are not to be imposed on others.
Wouldn't it be great if the thousands of kids at our high school could learn about that document instead of signing their lives away under bullshit pretext to fight in countries whose cultures are grossly misunderstood ?