the "greater good"?

We had a friend over for dinner last night -- a hearty meal and interesting conversation on a cold, wintry evening. (The snow is well past my knees now and local stores are having difficulty keeping ski equipment stocked.)

Our guest brought up recent reports and Swedish journalist investigations into aspects of the United Nations conduct in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There are numerous horrible reports coming out of that area, this one focussed on the remarkably high percentage of U.N. soldiers stationed there admitting to having been with a prostitute. The stories of these women are quite tragic. Our friend told us of one 14-year-old girl who had, sadly, a not-uncommon tale. She was attacked and raped by three men, who also "damaged" her with a knife. Her "recovery" has now left her with the option of prostitution to provide for herself and her young child.

These awful things -- along with mass murders and tortures of civilians by U.N.-sanctioned Congolese soldiers, misappropriation of arms and supplies, and more -- are taking place under the "watchful" eye of the U.N., and by responsibility, the world. Now, it seems, opinions are against the U.N. continuing what is currently their largest peacekeeping operation, but have recently extended their stay by another five months.

I read an editorial this morning from the Los Angeles Times which posed the question:

"Can the U.N. help the government overcome rebels who torture and kill civilians without assisting, even inadvertently, Congolese soldiers who are allegedly engaged in similar human rights abuses?"

This is only one question of a thousand. It's hard to not take a cynical stance towards the U.N. and their role in countries like the Congo. And yet, when inaction results in terrible tragedy, as in the case of the Congo's neighbor Rwanda, the U.N. is blamed with howls of protest.

It's difficult to even form an opinion, much less "do something". Looking at an individual issue it's simple to determine right or wrong but the further you back up things become gray: complicated, with expressions tossed about like "necessary evil" or "greater good".

As I am writing, lyrics of a song from Waterdeep come to mind. There is hope for the hopeless. There is justice. There is clarity in confusion. Assurance of things unseen.

"He will comfort all that's hardened / change the deserts into gardens / and we all will see His face. He will come. He will come. He will soften all the starkness / break the chambers of our darkness / and we'll all be overwhelmed."


why was i complaining?

Spend five to ten minutes reading news coming out of Haiti. The scale of the disaster is overwhelming. Left without government, without hospitals, medical care, enough doctors, food, shelter, bodies rotting in the streets, the president sleeping at the airport.

Anyone interested in giving financially here are links to two reputable organizations working in Haiti at the moment: Samaritan's Purse and Compassion Canada. Both are reputable, experienced organizations with solid financial accountability. The Canadian government has committed to matching donations up to $100,000.

For an idea of the scale, a BBC report: Haiti: No medical care, no doctors, no government


winter vanilla strawberry pie

An exquisite winter day. The sun is shining, telling us (without looking at the temperature) that it is cold today. In fact (because I did look) it's around -20, which is unusual here. The trees I see from where I am sitting -- birch, spruce, pine, cherry, oak, jasmine -- all laden with as much snow as the branches can balance. Snow drifts off in clumps and showers as it becomes too much to bear. With the low-hanging winter sun behind, the blue sky is filled with sparkling confetti. Our rather long driveway is shoveled, and a fire smoking and popping in the living room -- although the charm of the open fireplace has rather worn off and become more of a necessity than a convenience.

I am contemplating making some kind of comfort food. Cheesecake? Lemon loaf or raisin bread? Something spicy and meaty? My devious side prompts me towards raisin bread, knowing Martin hates cooked raisins (poison) and I could have it all to myself. What a nice little wife I am. But I am eating for two, people insist. (Why is it that so many people say that? I can't recall ever saying such a thing to someone, but I am hearing quite often, despite the fact that I am eating rather normal portion sizes and have no real cravings.)

Speaking of food, Martin has introduced me to something so yummy, so fragrant, crunchy, and gooey it's almost tragic to say "McDonald's" after. A piping-hot vanilla strawberry pie from McDonald's, fresh from the deepfryer and smelling like donut heaven. (Why am I feeling like I sound like Homer?) And, since I am pregnant and can supposedly use it to excuse all kinds of excess and eccentricities, I will go further. I admit with only a tiny cringe of shame -- I like McDonald's. I like salty french fries, cheeseburgers, Big Macs, and hot fudge sundaes. I love Egg McMuffins and deepfried hashbrowns. And because it all tastes virtually the same as it ever did, familiarity is the most divine flavour of all. This isn't because I am pregnant, either. Martin can attest to it. It mostly happened after moving to Sweden. If there is a sure way to cheer me up it's the suggestion, "Want to go to McDonald's?"

Now I have spilled a deep-fried, dark 'secret' on the most pure and sunny winter day. Delicious.