Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Good Word in a Foreign Land

My conjecture from the previous post was that successful boycotts possessed the common strand of sacrifice. In the history of boycotts often times banding together and enduring extended periods of suffering was necessary to push the opposition to the point of fatigue. Boycotts that did not do accomplish this likely did not accomplish their objectives (counter examples are welcome). Martin Luther King once said that he was sure that his capacity for suffering was greater than the ability of others to inflict pain upon him.

About a year ago my Grandmother sent me a package that contained a photo album of some boyhood pictures. It was filled with aunts and uncles in their youth and other relatives that had since passed into eternity. And, among those pictures my Grandma included a World War Two ration book that belonged to my Great Grandmother. Holding this small slice of history I was somewhat in awe. But, I’ll never forget what a friend of mine said about the ration book that really troubled me, “That will never happen again.” What he was saying was that sacrifice is a foreign word and/or action to our generation. Nobody likes to hear “sacrifice”, it is politically unpopular and so it made me wonder if Americans could bring themselves to sacrifice or if my small slice of history was really just that –history.

Then again, it is not likely that Americans are the only strangers to the word. Europeans often champion nonviolent action; but, dialogue often does not lead to the desired outcome. Only two weeks ago Nicolas Sarkozy, Prime Minister of France, waved a truce agreement between Russia and Georgia. Alas, Russia has now invaded Georgia and does not show signs of ceasing. Like my locksmith told me, “Locks keep honest thieves honest” and so I believe that truces keep peaceful countries peaceful. But now some plan of action must be drawn up. And, because Europe is involved this will likely include long and tiring discussion that will not be costly for the Russians but much more anxious and ineffective for the Europeans.

Eventually something will need to happen and it will require some kind of sacrifice. The nature of that sacrifice is still in question. Will it be non violent, perhaps a boycott of Russia’s natural gas of which Europe is a big demander? Or will action eventually escalate into violence? It is unclear. But, the Europeans may be much like the Americans in their regard for sacrifice.

Sure it is easy to talk about boycotting the opening ceremonies of the Olympics; but, when human rights violations are happening via conquest in your backyard reluctance grows. In such a situation real cost is involved and those without the resolve to endure suffering wilt and allow injustice to persist.

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