Sweden’s Political Crossroads

Sweden’s Political Crossroads

Wallstrom on Women It’s been almost six months since Sweden’s decision to recognize a Palestinian State. My blog on that topic highlighted the double standard being employed to bolster that decision. I stated “Regardless of intent, I believe the acceptance of, and open practice of double standards and false equivalencies on the International stage is destined to make matters worse, leading to more, not less, war and bloodshed.  Swedes don’t like to think of themselves this way, but sometimes the truth hurts.”

Thankfully, I suppose, double standards and false equivalencies (which, by the way, is how I believe we can identify hypocrisy) tend to eventually become clear, even to the hypocrites themselves, in this case, Sweden’s leaders. Truth, Lies or just hypocrisy?One can only hope that Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, who was recently blocked from speaking at an Arab League meeting and who is now being denouced across the world of Islam as “an enemy of the Prophet”. Ms. Wallström, countered, before Swedish Parliament recently, that she had no intention of criticizing Islam.

Why then the outrage? Read all about it here, including how Veronica Nordlund, from the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s press service, apparently was unaware that Saudi Arabia abstained from signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because it violates Sharia Law. The chickens are coming home to roost, on Sweden’s hypocritical stance, as the article outlines.

Will she retract her criticism of Saudi flogging and misogyny, and announce that it was never her intention to offend the great Saudi nation or its culture? In that case, she will have dealt a devastating blow to Sweden’s claim to be a “moral superpower” and to a foreign policy based on human rights and feminism.

Or will she stand by her words and accept that Sweden — and any other country in Europe that claims to stand for humanistic values and the primacy of human rights — is in for a debacle that may well be more severe than what Denmark experienced during the Muhammad cartoon crisis in 2005/2006?

Perhaps perversely, the random virtues card I pulled to conclude here was Flexibility. Not, frankly, what I was hoping for. But here goes…

“Flexibility is the ability to adapt and change amid the fluctuating circumstances of life. We go with the flow, seeing the choices, challenges and opportunities in all that happens. We do not insist on our own way.” All of this would seem to support Sweden’s stance, but wait, there’s more.  “When the unexpected comes, we rise to the challenge with resilience and confidence. We are willing to change unproductive habits… The winds of change may bend us but they only make us stronger. We are willing to grow.”

The first affirmation is “I adapt when change is called for”.

Wallstrom flexibilityIt turns out, this virtue may be just what Sweden needs. Will the country be able to change its course – that of accommodation and even praise for that which, if properly understood, is actually antithetical to their stated values? Can Sweden admit that it has been hypocritical, and rebound from that, with a genuine change? Can Sweden be that flexible? It will be interesting to watch.

Dancing to the Doomsday Clock

Dancing to the Doomsday Clock

Doomsday ClockToday I read that the Doomsday Clock has moved forward two minutes.

Yet the transcript of President Obama’s State of the Union address from earlier this week was effusively positive.  He declared “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.” and that “we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.” He warns against being “fearful and reactive” and “dragged into costly conflicts”.

Is the glass half full or half empty?  And regardless of your perspective being full-of-hope or fearful, what decisions should we be making / what actions should we be taking with regard to the challenges we face?

As I do every blog, I’m going to now pull a Virtues Card to provide a lens by which to frame my own response to these questions.  In case you wondered, I’m not lobbing myself softballs with this approach as indicated by today’s pick – Idealism. “Idealism is having a vision of what is possible and wanting to make a difference. It is caring passionately about what is meaningful in life. Idealists see things as they could be and have faith in the power of change.”

glass half full emptyThis leans in the direction of the President vs. Doomsday Clock watchers confirming my perspective. Despite very real reasons to agree with the folks who moved the clock forward viewing the glass as half full is the right choice. That perspective points us in the right direction. But wait.  The card quote continues…

“We put our principles into practice. We don’t just accept the way things are.” and it concludes “Idealists do something to make things better. We make the ideal real.”

This is where I diverge sharply from the President’s narrative. What he calls “reactive” I call “necessary”. We can’t wish away the conflicts. If we are freer than any other nation on earth to write our own future, we must reverse the course he has chosen internationally, which is to withdraw and let the bullies and the bad actors have their way in large areas of the world. We must stop them raping and pillaging our fellow global citizens.

He, for example, believes we acted appropriately by essentially not acting when Russia annexed part of Ukraine.  But we promised Ukraine that we would protect them in exchange for giving up their nuclear weapons. Shame, shame, shame on us for abandoning them in their hour of need. This is just one example of where my view on the volume in the glass of America’s current President on international matters is decidedly shy of half-full.

Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones

For leaders to inspire with idealism they must lead in the direction they want people to move. Withdrawing into our own echo-chamber and patting ourselves on the back about our idealism is not the real thing. Idealism not only envisions rosy outcomes, it requires making touch choices, and having the courage and commitment to follow through on them.

Islamic State Has No Dignity

Islamic State Has No Dignity

Flag_of_the_Islamic_State_of_Iraq_and_the_LevantI just read a most fascinating article by Nadim Shehadi which answers a question that comes to my Western mind with regard to the Islamic State (ISIS, or ISIL).  The article states “Islamic State has been described as a virtual entity, its visibility a product of a sophisticated media strategy designed to make it seem like the fount of all evil.” My immediate reaction to this is “Why?”  Why choose a path of such obvious offense?  The article answers this, using history and regional legal practice.

But it doesn’t for one second diminish the horror of what is occurring, nor, for those who see beyond and behind today’s headlines, does it do anything to diminish the ominous nature of the gathering global thunderclouds.  A global polarization is occurring, one that is so dramatic it threatens to reverse the polarity of the planet, turning everything upside down.  At its center is the tiny nation of Israel.

Israel is the primary focal point of an intolerant fundamentalist hatred that has come to permeate much of the Islamic World.  Supporters of Israel, such as the United States, are caught in the dragnet.  Labels like “The Great Satan” are applied not only for supporting Israel, but also for representing a different civilization, a different way of life. Support for Israel is a topic for other blogs, as is the soulless materialism and hypocrisy of the West, all catalysts of Islamic antipathy.  But while two wrongs do not make a right, there are degrees of wrong.  Just as there are degrees of, dare I say the word… Evil!

Seeing Evil for what it is

See evil for what it is.

I use Virtues to filter my thoughts now and for this blog I randomly selected Dignity.  The card I pulled calls Dignity “a sense of worthiness and respect.  It comes from remembering who we truly are and our purpose for being.”  Dignity requires us to stand up for what is right and true, for the good of ourselves and those who are behaving in ways that destroy Dignity.

I’ll leave you with the request to read the article that inspired this one and reflect on how an inherent deception, the desire to “establish” legitimacy by covert, and vicious means, is anything but dignified.  Millions are impressed, and inflamed with adoration and emulation for an entity that establishes itself by mounting a propaganda campaign that appeals to the most base and destructive urges of friend and foe alike.  This is destined to cause irreparable damage.

We’ve seen this movie before. We cannot follow the example of Neville Chamberlain.

We, as a species, must oppose Evil.  We, as a species, must find a means to stop it.

Not in reaction.  Not in anger.  But with Dignity.

Before the havoc it wreaks can grow to unstoppable proportions.