Here we are at a finale of the freedom to participate in our democratic process in a great way. We discussed humanitarian policy for global security, watched the President of the United States of America debate a challenger days before we all have the option of early voting beginning on Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 10 am in the state of Maryland where I live. It was a fascinating evening, this Monday October 22nd at 7 pm. We were in the city’s finest newspaper, The Washington Post, building as around forty people assembled at seven tables to learn about the Interactivity Foundation and to discuss the booklet Helping Out: Humanitarian Policy for Global Security. Two tables had Spanish language participants that numbered somewhere over twenty. They were using headphone devices and Spanish booklets.
At my table, everyone spoke English and were a real estate lawyer, a dermatologist, two campaign workers, a businessman, PhD candidate and educator and me. Three people had not attended prior IF salons, but the rest had attended at least one. We started the discussion right away after a brief introduction of the topic and of the IF process. Everyone was engaged. Upon reading the Basic Policy Vision, we discussed the United Nations’ role as a peace keeper and as a deliverer of humanitarian services. Everyone agreed that the organization is not effective with either service. The question is how does the United States want to be seen? Are we the big brother who is responsible for the ills and woes of the world? What should be our policy about acting? How should we pay for and plan for being useful in disasters? And most importantly, what about here in parts of Washington, DC where people are living out lives that is similar to those in any of the areas around the world that are in turmoil and ill-repair.
As we moved to the section on Addressing the Suffering, the discussion intensified. We reviewed the six suggested ways of addressing suffering and read the policy statements of providing speedy response, stopping crimes against humanity, and protecting the displaced. Here is where the global comparison began. Participants mentioned Katrina, Haiti, Rwanda, Sudan, Indonesian tsunami, Syria, Bosnia, Northern Ireland and wondered if America has done what if should have done. We wondered if we have been fair, balanced, and timely in our service delivery. We are most familiar with Haiti and, of course, Katrina. Here, the proximity to the U.S. and the publicity of both events made them easy to discuss. Regardless of US policies and FEMA-type organizations that point to an intention to provide humanitarian services, speedy response, stopping crimes against humanity, and protecting the displaced have not been handled well. Examples of failures, delays of service, and reasons why flooded out. We could have compared and contrasted items and stories for the rest of the night. We spent a lot of time thinking of more possibilities and ways to plan for and provide more equitable humanitarian services.
At 8:30 to 8:45 pm we summarized our thoughts and enjoyed more of the excellent catered buffet dinner that we had been enjoying during our discussion, discussed as an entire group of seven tables what our expectations are for the debate. Then the debate started, projected on a large screen from CNN. Once again, we had exercised our right to assemble freely, talk openly, be politically incorrect, watch the highest level partisan debate, and walk away to exercise our right to safely vote. This evening was democracy at work. It was democracy at its best.