My Country

      My best friend left for Yugoslavia twelve days ago. I don't know if I'm going to see him again.

      He's off to war. Actually, he's part of a marine force that is being set up near Kosovo. The President says he isn't going to have to fight. He's just there to help refugees. I wonder why they need marines to do that, though.
      In the weeks before he left, he kept saying that he would be proud to go… that he wanted to go. He thinks it's his duty to go help those people in need. "They're being evicted, tortured and murdered, just because someone else doesn't want them living in that country," he'd say. I agree with that. What's happening to those people in Kosovo is terrible, and it should be stopped. And I want us to stop it. But I also don't want my best friend to die.
      Every time our country sends troops to fight for someone else, two factions seem to stand up and voice (or scream) their opinions. One side says that we should not go out and fight to end the suffering of others when so many of our own people are suffering in so many ways. People without homes, people without jobs, children without families, families without food, young people in prison, people dying of disease, crime and hopelessness… the list seems endless. And every minute we spend outside of the country is one less minute we spend working on our own… every dollar we spend to save someone else is a dollar we can't spend to save our own… every life we lose outside our borders is a life that cannot help our own. Our own citizens have to be more important than those of other countries.
      The other side says that we have a responsibility as human beings to help those in need, no matter what country they're in. We need to step in when people are wronged and cannot help themselves. We need to be defenders of liberty and freedom. That's what this country is supposed to be about. Freedom… protecting and promoting freedom. We can't sit by and do nothing as people's human rights are trampled on, as they are massacred and destroyed. We can't ignore the problem, even though we know it exists. That would make us just as guilty as the people who are committing the injustices.
      In my life, I've never been able to fully commit to either side. Every time someone quotes the homeless rate in our country or someone on the news does a story on families living in poverty, I find myself wishing that our government would do something to help them. I also find myself starting to believe that we spend far too much money on our military. And yet every time I watch the news and see pictures of dead bodies halfway around the world, every time I see video of protesters in foreign countries being gunned down by police or military forces, I find myself getting angry, and believing that we should go in and put a stop to that sort of thing.
      I think that I'm swayed by the emotional issues involved. It's easy to believe our military budget is too big when I see real suffering in our streets. And it's easy to believe that we have to get involved when I see people dying in other countries. If I don't see, if I'm not shown the video, or the pictures, or it I don't hear the personal stories of suffering, I'm not easily convinced. I need to experience the human element before my opinion can be swayed. I don't know if that makes me easily manipulated and taken advantage of, or if it shows that I have a great deal of empathy for others.

      My father once said to me that there are two ways people deal with problems. Some people want to throw all of their resources, all of their effort, into solving one problem… and they don't stop, they don't worry about any other problems, until the problem they are working on is solved. To do that, though, sometimes they have to pretend that the other problems aren't that important. Other people will spread their resources and effort across every problem, hoping that, eventually, all of the problems will be solved. To do that, they have to admit that much suffering will occur because it will take so much longer to solve any single problem.
      Some people want us to put all of our efforts and money into solving our own country's problems, pretending that other countries' problems aren't that important. Some people want us to try to help ourselves and everyone else, knowing full well that our and their suffering will continue for some time.

      I'm sure that there must be a third way… a way to solve all the problems, quickly. A way to take care of ourselves and others. But I don't know what that way is. I just don't want my best friend to die.