Let It Burn

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By Nidal Sakr

(MAF - 10/2/08) I hate popularity contests where contestants do and say whatever buys them popularity regardless to all else. For years, meltdown has been coming, yet when it is at our door step, we are all panicking and pointing fingers.

Obviously we are still in a state of denial. We want to fix a problem before even realizing what the problem is. We jump to do the same things seeking different outcomes, when the reality is we are only digging ourselves deeper into the mess we all have been creating and sharing for long.

I contend that the problem today is global and spread much wider and further than anyone likes to admit. I also contend that although the US is most guilty for this global crisis, it is by no means the only one at fault. And I stress that unless we live up to the challenge at hand, we will miss an opportunity to redeem ourselves that may never come again - at least not as a world leader.

Through challenge comes opportunity, but with challenge comes responsibility. Being up to the responsibility that comes with challenge is what opens those doors of opportunity.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

If this is the million-dollar question, its answer must be no less than ten-trillion-dollars worth. If you factor in its future value, the answer is virtually priceless. I will not account for past value for the simple reason that much of past value is already included in this colossal breakdown.

The problem as we see it today and the quick fixes on the table are almost irrelevant to the size of the real problem. Proposals on the table are not the remedies we must undertake and enact to seize the opportunity and ensure that lessons are learned and that we are on a healthy path to recovery.

For long, our interests as a nation have been at odds with each other. When each group in America thinks of its own interest, we often think of it at the expense of somebody else’s interest or at least regardless to anybody else’s. We are not talking US vs. the world here. I am talking an American vs. another American in this very States of America we proclaim to be United. Wall Street interest is essentially not same as main street’s. Whites’ is not in line with Blacks’, hunters are at odds with drive-by-shooting and gang victims, evangelicals as opposed to the majority, rich as opposed to the poor, and the list goes on of the opposites that make our pot melting.

We grew accustomed to the idea that we live in a capitalist society and that capitalist only means self-centered. We understood that capitalism is a lifestyle where you do not care if your neighbor’s home burns to the ground as long as your home is safe and sound. That philanthropy and altruism only means paying you off to keep yourself and your problems at a distance from me. That “one for all and all for one” is a saying to convince you to take the bullet for me while I climb up over your remains.

I am not running in a popularity contest and contend that I never will be. It is my obligation to profess what I see and know so that we may all dodge the bullet for once, but only to make sure not to get shot at again.

A year ago, I wrote on an Arabic saying: “Entering and Exiting a Bathroom Are Not Same.” Judging from the political rhetoric of an election season, some of what I said is materializing, and often iterated, but not substantially addressed by the popularity-contestant candidates.

Our country today is like a wooden Titanic sailing the high seas but with no iceberg in sight. We have the first class at upper deck who will eat only the freshest and tastiest, while their leftovers trickle down to the decks below. Then comes the middle deck people, who sift through the upper decks’ leftovers and eat whatever good the upper deck may have forsaken. Then comes the lower deck crowd, who has no choice but to survive on whatever is thrown to them from above.

Someone in first class decided to light up a joint. The weed was delivered by a runner from the bottom who works for a dealer from the middle. The lighter is a gigantic center pole the rich saw fitting to light up his lavish joint with. In his high, the rich set the pole on fire and soon enough the whole ship was engulfed in flames and began to sink. In the process, some managed to collect their pieces and swim to safe shores while many were not as lucky.

It is a story with quite a happy ending. Those who survived were only the ones with enough endurance to build another ship where decks are not as separable. Where the ship security system is such that when fire breaks out, all decks rush to extinguish it. Where food is served by the menu and all dishes are within reach to all those on board, and only the right portions are served so as not leave waste or leftovers. Where there are still rich and those who are not as rich, but who all share the same ship and destiny.

You can still call it capitalism, but one without self-centrism and where conscience and humanity are more than just feeling good about ourselves.

I say let it burn, and let us for once take the heat, learn our lessons, and come out better and stronger. Our country, our resources, our might, and the United States of America as we know it is not going anywhere, but only our selfishness, carelessness, and greed. Only then will “United” and “Melting” mean more than just words.