The new UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea, was in Washington over the past couple of days to meet with Bush. The SG asked for the US's support in the UN's peacekeeping operations. I promise to swallow 5 raw egg yolks while someone sticks flaming bamboo under my fingernails if that ever happens while Bush is in office. The NYT article says that the US is the biggest contributor to UN peacekeeping funds. If you ask around, most people, including both liberal and conservative media outlets, will say the US is the leading contributor to the UN in general, as well as its agencies. According to my father, who used to work as a Project Manager for the UN Pan American Health Organization, we need to think in terms of per capita contributions, and in that sense, the Nordic countries, Norway in particular, beat out the US by far. For one, Norway is one of the leading contributors to the UN Peacebuilding Fund, followed by Sweden and Denmark, while the US has yet to pledge anything at all, not even a paperclip. Let us also consider the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) fiasco a few years back, in which the US and newly elected Bush Co. decided to halt funding to the agency due to agency's family planning programs in China. Bush was convinced they were preaching abortion, when of course they were not, because it was absolutely not feasible to preach abortion in the countryside where people hardly have access to regular doctors. The US is almost always an obstacle to the UN's progress in so many ways, it is almost impossible to count. They didn't even want to form the Peacebuilding Commission (where I work now), even though my old boss, who was at the US mission to the UN when the Commission was formed, took full credit on behalf of the US for creating it.
There is an editorial in today's NYT (Times Select, so I can't link...sorry) about the way that some people "revere it too highly. They put it on a pedestal, or as Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins puts it, they regard marriage not as the foundation of adult life, but as the capstone." As for me, marriage is neither "the foundation of adult life", nor is it "the capstone". I know that marriage will not make or break me. I do plan on it, for now at least, because for me it is a fulfillment of one of my purposes, which is to give somebody unconditional love and support and to get it back from that person. I realize that I don't have to get married to do this, but it would be nice, and I'd like to have a proper family situation for my kids. But even with a husband, that is a huge gamble. Perhaps tradition influences me in this regard. But I've seen so many reasons NOT to get married: the first is my own parents. There is a huge difference between two people being the best of friends and admiring each other for and being a married couple. They don't necessarily translate. Sometimes it happens that before you marry someone, you get along great and laugh and have a great time, although he is grumpy most times and can be a bit of a bore. Then 20 years down the line, you are still married, and and you realize his problem got worse as he got older and now he is always grumpy and virtually lacks a pulse. Then you start to rationalize the union by saying, "but he's such a good man," while acknowledging that you are rotting inside from lack of activity and from having to take responsibility for a man that hesitates to do it for himself. She has to cater to his wants, but he doesn't have to and will not go out of his way for her. I also don't like the concept of having to hide the things you bought on your latest shopping spree because hubby will get mad. I'm not so into the "fearing the husband" thing. I agree that a couple needs to compromise in most regards including finances, but enough is enough. I don't want to have to "report" to anyone I don't work for. I've seen couples where one will by a house while the spouse is out of town and others where one has to be away from the spouse a certain amount of days during the week in order to tolerate being married to her. None of these are idyllic situations to me, so I understand the hunt will be long and arduous, and in the end, I may end up getting married at 65 or not at all. I think what bothers me more is how my family will react if I don't marry. I wouldn't have the time to be miserable about that, and I don't understand anyone who would, because there are so many other things with which to be concerned. But whatever happens, I'm not going to get all Charlotte-from-Sex-and-the-City about it and make my friends set me up and leave them 50 nasty messages on their answering machines when they do not fulfill their promise. But I always keep in mind that Charlotte ended up marrying a chubby, Jewish (she was Episcopalian) divorce lawyer who she even converted for, so that goes to show that the impossible can quickly become possible (even quicker if you exist in a sitcom).
There is another op-ed in the NYT by Bob Herbert (which I cannot link either), who is getting on my nerves lately. In it, he cites Martin Luther King Jr.'s assertion that “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." I absolutely agree with that. Herbert states that too many people are more concerned with getting MLK day off work than with the lessons he was trying to teach. I absolutely agree with that too. There are too many ignorant idiots running around trying to get holidays off work without understanding what those holidays mean. But the main theme of Herbert's column is that Americans are not outraged enough over Iraq and other issues, such as New Orleans. It is easy for those whose job it is to sit in front of the computer and knock out two weekly op-eds to criticize people for different things. It's easy for me, even though it is not my job, but at least I only criticize people who deserve it. I think there are many, especially in NYC, who would be outraged with Herbert. While it is true that there has not been as much protest over Iraq as there was over Vietnam, there has been considerable protest, in the streets, at home, on blogs and websites, in the news, even from the government itself. There was protesting against the Iraq war before the invasion/occupation even started. There was protesting against Bush the minute he usurped the presidency. There was protest about Bushco's lack of movement when Katrina happened and in its aftermath. It needs to be considered that we are living in different times and people have different mindsets. The government is different, and before the war even started it was widely known that any protest would fall on deaf ears and the government would go ahead with their plans anyway, just as they did even after most of their rationale was found to be a lie. Revolution is not so present in people's minds as it used to be, and maybe Herbert would have a point if he said that people, for the most part, are more resigned these days. But there's a lot of outrage to be witnessed, and I think Herbert is retreating into a world of his own lately. Plus, I don't think he's leaving his desk to do anything but go home at the end of the day.