Change is not easy. Especially when it involves the fundamentals. The process of reevaluating my concept of personal security, in the context of a career representing the government with every move I make, has been a painful one. Taking on personal responsibility goes without saying – I’ve done enough living and traveling to have a concept of where lines are drawn. Accepting that I am not the only one affected by my actions has been harder, however. Indeed, my very career depends on how successfully I embody the “mission” I am trying to achieve, that is maintaining and improving relations between my country and others.
Wandering through an inner city, gang controlled neighborhood as a student is one thing. In the capacity of a diplomat… now there are others responsible for my safety.
Admittedly it takes some of the fun out of being in another country. But it also emphasizes the meaningfulness of why I am here.
I was in Johor Baru, the capital city of the southern most province of peninsular Malaysia, for a friend’s wedding, when the tsunami slammed into coastlines on all sides of the Indian Ocean. Today, people in many towns and cities, not the least of them Banda Aceh, which lost about 190,000 people to the wave, are remembering the tragedy.
I was safe, with the giant island of Sumatra blocking the wave, and was far away from the west coast anyway, but the earthquake and tsunami still affected my life, changing the course of the rest of that year in Malaysia and beyond. But the effect on me was minute compared to the families, entire communities, that bore the physical and lasting pains of death andÂ devastation.
Take a look at my family’s annual Xmas card, here.
The attempt to define my own generation, as we get ready to enter our third decade, is an ongoing one. Perhaps, in the end, fruitless, in a world that exists between the niche market and mass market, individualism and mass movements, entitled Liberal Arts graduates and long term underemployed youth, but useful to ponder nonetheless.
Lately, my thoughts have revolved around the thousands and thousands of my brothers and sisters, kids I grew up with and probably lost touch with, or the many who are invisible, whose lives were largely put on hold and whose souls have been battered by years of military service. The focus on the recent pull out of the last American troops from Iraq really drives this thought home as images and articles in the media portray the decorated and the devastated.
True, some of my more successful friends are vets who have come home and used their skills and connections toxins their place. But when I look at the state of veterans of war from generations before my own, and I hear stories of all those people who I don’t see or know, whose lives have been ripped apart, I admit a degree of fear for what could happen to this new generation of my peers, in the US and in every country whose people have faced the violence of the past decade.