Small World: Weather report — Snow and more

Henry Precht

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

Thinking about what to think about this week is particularly hard. Only with considerable exertion can one see over the gigantic snow banks that block our vision of the outside world. What might be going on out there, you ask, that’s more important than getting to the store for a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread, or a six pack of beer?

Well, for one thing — climate change which may be (probably is) bringing New England the weather customarily reserved for northern Canada. The amount of precipitation, frequency of storms and weather patterns could well be a consequence, knowledgeable scientists seem to think, of human activity which alters the atmosphere around us.

There’s probably no more critical item on the American agenda or the world’s than reining in behavior that may make economic sense in the short term but in the long term guarantees misery for our communities whether or not they themselves are responsible.

Given the responsibility of lawmakers for responding to this challenge, some ought to be red-faced with shame for aspiring to lead their countrymen without the basic qualifications of intelligence and knowledge. Imagine an aspirant for the presidency who waffles on evolution or on the imperative for vaccinating innocent children. What makes such politicians — whose heads are light on basic facts or where to find them (or the courage to defend them once understood) — think they are qualified to lead? They should be condemned to eight hours of daily snow shoveling until they (1.) are red in the face and (2.) agree to seek special tutoring.

Healing the environment is so important, so urgent that I am loath to suggest another issue to occupy your mind while leaning for a moment on your shovel. But leaving empty column space would be out of character. So here goes,

In my decades of thinking about — and playing a sort of role in — international affairs, I have come to one opinion that overrides all others: We ought to take no action that will predictably result in the loss of innocent human life and we should exercise our considerable powers to prevent or reduce — not augment — casualties. That means, for example, we shouldn’t blame all the deaths in Syria on what we call the “murderous regime” of Bashir al Assad. The obvious fact is there are two sides (at least) in this conflict. By aiding a favored one with even defensive or non-lethal weapons guarantees that the conflict will continue and casualties will rise. We share responsibility for innocent deaths with the regime we abhor and blame.

Responsibility weighs on us also in the Arab-Israel conflict when we turned away from the murderous assault by Israeli forces on Gaza — no matter how wrong Palestinian firing of random rockets at Israeli civilians. We have the power to prevent death; we did nothing. We share Israel’s guilt.

What I advocate is a different way of looking at the challenges thrown up by our enemies. As objectively as we can manage, we ought to examine their grievances — even those of the most psychotic terrorists.

That sounds naïve and I suppose it is. But our objective ought to be to end conflict, not to crush our enemies — as appealing as that choice might seem.

I hasten to respond to the voices that emerge from behind the snow drifts: How can we have a reasonable conversation with barbaric fanatics who won’t hesitate to slit our throats? The answer is, of course, we can’t. Some humans — alas — are beyond salvation, beyond reasoned discourse. Those diseased minds are worthy only of the strictest quarantine. But don’t bomb them and kill innocents in the process. Fence them off; don’t buy their oil; don’t permit communications with them. Above all, don’t confuse them with those caught in between. Don’t insult and sully all Moslems in anger with those we rightfully condemn. Treat them with the respect you think you merit and help them reach aspirations we share.

We don’t have to go back to the Crusades, Inquisition or ethnic cleansing of Native Americans to understand that we are guilty of some pretty dire offences in the modern world. It is imperative, however, that we not add to those offences by making war on innocents or on the environment.

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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