Theodore is Seven Months

I’m back!!! Yes, I took a few weeks off from writing and many of you have messaged me about my tumbleweed blog. The lapse in posts was due to a few key factors – burnout, physical therapy, and my son. First off, the burn out was related to sleep deprivation and a general malaise in respects to the merit of writing posts. After a lot of soul searching, I renewed my commitment to SAPERE AUDE and its quest for wisdom. Secondly, I took a break because my physical therapy – which has been three times a week for the past four months – left me little time to write. Some will remember the post about my ailments but as a quick refresher, I have tingling in my hands, legs, and face. For a while, medical science scratched its head at my condition – not anymore! I now know that my tingling stems from a back injury I received almost five years ago – for a long time doctors thought the tingling was from anxiety, MS, neuropathy, B12 deficiency, and even stress-induced by my wife :). Now that we know for sure the cause of my problem, I have significantly improved through specific exercise routines, medical massage, and non-invasive laser therapy. My tingling is at an all-time low and I really appreciate the prayers and thoughts. On an average day, I commit four hours of my day to physical therapy, stretching, and exercise. Those four hours are required and I have to sacrifice other things like writing or reading to make up the time. Hence, I have had to make some changes and this brings me to my third factor in being absent – my Theodore.

Theodore is now seven months old and is more precious to me than ever before. When I was first beginning this journey, fatherhood was more theoretical than practical. I couldn’t connect with Teddy because all he did was cry and suck on my wife’s breast. Now though, Teddy and I can actually bond. He smiles at me. He laughs with me. He even walks around with me – through the assistance of a rolling walker. We aren’t at the point of tossing a ball with each other or discussing the Russian Revolution…but we are one step closer. To put it generally, Teddy now has a unique personality that grows each and every day. He is more interactive mentally and physically; we are about two weeks out from him learning to crawl and us having to childproof the house. He doesn’t cry constantly anymore and can entertain himself for a half-hour at a time. As I write these words, he is rolling around and making bubble noises. A month ago, I would have stopped ten times to console him while I wrote this paragraph – now he just smiles at me and tries to roll over the Chihuahua. The best measure of my bonding with Teddy is evidenced by my desire for more kids – just yesterday my wife and I had a conversation about trying for another baby. We are probably a few months from that point yet but it does explain the climate of my life. Not everything is baby heaven at the Oldham’s. Just last week my beautiful son awoke from his slumber with poop halfway up his back. My wife and I had to literally hose him off – in the process, I got both poop and water all over my clothes. As another example, just a couple of sentences ago I wrote that he was smiling…now he is crying his head off – the changes in his temperament are drastic, to say the least. Overall though, the fact that I am posting this blog is a sign of improvement for my sanity, my health, and my fathering ability. I will begin to post weekly again about my books and my lessons from life’s many curveballs.

Theodore is 5 Months Old

It’s odd to think that five months ago, I was holding my wife’s hand while a large mass of hair exploded out of her nether regions. Theodore still has his head full of hair but has gained so much more ever since that fateful winter day. He is now rolling over regularly – from his right side but not his left – and spends a considerable amount of time on his stomach. While on his stomach, he tries to worm his way across the floor in a manner akin to a sprinting Jabba the Hut. Each time a new person comes into the room, he smiles and welcomes them with a gift of regurgitated milk. The spit up is relentless, and we probably go through five outfits a day. Just the other week, Teddy looked into my eyes and pooped for 30 seconds straight; a connection of intimacy that I never thought was possible. My reading and writing have gone down significantly because we watch ESPN for most of the day. Why ESPN? When Teddy takes a nap, he needs background noise to stay asleep. Music never seemed to work, and so the TV provides his auditory stimulus. I can’t stand The View or any type of syndicated news – hence, we watch people argue about the NBA Finals all day long. I enjoy sports, but my knowledge of current events in the realm of athletics has reached an expert level; I can tell you the merits of Lebron staying in LA, the poor draft choice of the New York Giants, and even the prospects of Tiger winning another Major. I try to juxtapose ESPN with audiobooks so Teddy can have some variety; we just finished a biography of John Muir and are now tackling Vanity Fair.

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Christina is pretty well back to the groove of work – however, I chauffeur Teddy to her office regularly so she can smell his head. My biggest takeaway at five months is that Teddy can laugh. He doesn’t laugh often, but when he does, it is a magical experience. He is ticklish under his armpits and if you are ever so subtle…a small giggle will squeak out. In addition to the rare chuckle, we have reached the milestone of feeding him some solid food. His first ever sampling was mashed up banana – his mouth and face enjoyed it thoroughly. I grew up in a family where love was given through food – suffice to say I am excited to plump up this skinny Asian-baby. Speaking of weight, he is a sprightly 15 and a half pounds and is in the 33rd percentile in his size charts. I’m looking forward to the summer and taking him to the beach – we bought him a hat that will attract all the ladies. He has a lot of energy, and I believe he will be crawling within the next couple of months; this will be both a blessing and a curse because it will expend some of his energy but use up most of mine. I can’t say that I would want to go back to that day in January when “Cousin It” came out of my wife. The more Teddy grows and develops, the more I enjoy him – the baby phase is great and all but by no means I want him to stay this way forever. Here’s to the five-month point of the most tiring and fantastic year of my life.

PS – Here is a list of his current nicknames for posterity

Milk Man
Baked Potato 
Don Corleone
Brown Eyed Squirrel
Tweedy Bird
Hair Piece
Grumpy McGrumperson

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My Mom and South Sudan?

My Mom occasionally buys me books that she thinks I will like. She has bought me about ten books in the past couple of years, and all ten books were far from my usual reading selection. I try my best to have a diverse reading list, but my Mom is in a league of her own when it comes to getting me out of my comfort zone. The most recent example of her eclectic curation came from the book – What is the What by David Eggers. What is the What is a nonfiction book written as a fiction book…yes I did say my Mom expanded my horizons. It is technically a piece of fiction because it is the story of Valentino Achak Deng – one of the lost boys of the Sudanese war during the 1980s. Valentino was a child when the war occurred, and hence his first memories are not 100% accurate – but doesn’t take away from the real nightmare that made up the first two decades of his life.

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When Valentino was seven, his peaceful life in the southern region of Sudan turned upside down when war broke out. The war was between the SPLA, who wanted an independent South Sudan, and the government of Sudan who wished to maintain control over the area. Southern Sudan was primarily Christian while the political north was primarily Muslim. The Islamic government wanted to bring an Islamic state to the south, and the SPLA wanted to maintain its unique Afro-Christian identity. The conflict has been known to posterity as the Second Sudanese Civil War which began in 1987 and ended in 2005. During that time, two million people were killed – almost three and half times more people that died in the American Civil War – and thousands of children were left orphaned to fend for themselves.

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A large portion of those children were boys who were too young to enter into the SPLA and fled their homes to escape the conflict. Valentino was one of 20,000 lost boys who marched from South Sudan to safe havens like Ethiopia and Kenya. The boys walked to these places many times in small groups and had to endure starvation, government attack, and even predatory animals. Valentino witnessed his friends being dragged into the jungle by lions, shot by overhead helicopters, and eaten by parasitic flies after dropping dead from exhaustion. The walk he took consisted of hundreds of miles and months of toil – on several occasions, he laid on the ground for hours unable to move from extreme malnutrition and infection.

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Valentino was able to obtain some semblance of life at a Kenyan refugee camp that was funded by the United Nations. He lived in the camp for several years until the US allowed several Lost Boys to resettle in the states. While in the States he met Dave Eggers who recorded his story and wrote the book What is the What. Through funds of the book, Valentino started his own foundation to support education in Southern Sudan. South Sudan won its independence in 2011 but is still in conflict with various internal organizations – it is one of the most depressed countries on earth. I had no idea the turmoil in Sudan until reading this book, and it has ignited in me a desire to learn more about Africa in general. Oftentimes, we get consumed with our own interests that we miss seminal events around the world. All these things impact us, and we must continue to learn and help those who are suffering. Refugees need help more than ever, and we need to seek practical policies which benefit not only the “lost” but also the countries who take the “lost” in as citizens. Thanks, Mom, for expanding my horizon, and I always appreciate your eclectic tastes – I never thought I would be mentioning your name with South Sudan. Expand your world…I am continuing my expansion by reading a book that is far from my comfort zone – Emma by Jane Austen.

Here are 9 out of the next 15 books that I will begin in June:

Nabokov, Vladimir
Tennessee Williams

The Importance of Sleep

Writing this sentence is flat out exhausting. Why? Because I am so tired. Christina went back to work a month ago, and I took on the duty of watching my son during the night. I am not a night owl or a morning person. I am probably one of the most high-maintenance sleepers on the planet – 10:00 pm to 8:00 am is my sweet spot. Nine to ten hours a night is my goal, and with a child, that goal is laughable at best. I don’t have problems falling asleep or staying asleep during the night. My problems come during the day – I cannot sleep in, I cannot nap, and I cannot go to bed early. As soon as 8:00 am comes around, my eyes are wide open until 10:00 pm – no matter how much sleep I had the night before. For example, while in college, I tried to party like all my other classmates. I stayed up till 3:00 am, drinking, laughing, and having a good old time. Guess what? At 8:00 am I was awake while all my other friends slept till lunchtime.  The same problem occurred as a child during sleepovers. The chatter of young men would go late into the night, and everyone would finally fall asleep by early morning. Not me. I would stay up as long as possible – usually, I was the first to crash – and guess when my eyeballs would pop open? 8:00 am! Being the first to wake up at a sleepover is the worst experience in the world. After staring at the ceiling for 30 minutes, I would sneak away to the bathroom. After relieving myself, it was inevitable to run into my friend’s mom – an awkward conversation at the kitchen table ensued until one of my deadbeat friends’ woke up begging for pancakes. For these reasons, I did not have many sleepovers in my life nor parties at college.

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I thought as an adult I would never have to worry about my sleep schedule – no more peer pressure from drunk friends or adolescent sleepovers with too much sugar. But plans never work out, and I married a woman who has virtually no requirements for her sleep. Christina can function on five hours of sleep and amazes me with her energy. Her whole family is impervious to sleep – my in-laws regularly wash dishes at 2:00 in the morning. I bring all this up because I believe my son has inherited my wives sleep requirements. He is a baby, and I know babies have weird sleep patterns….but Teddy is one of a kind. Teddy sleeps sporadically during the night but rarely naps during the day – combining both his parents sleep patterns. The result is a nightmare for my sleep requirements and my ability to be productive during the day. For the past two weeks, I have simply sat on the couch and watched reruns of SportsCenter. My brain was in a fog, and my reading felt like the mental equivalent of treading through quicksand. Suffice it to say, my Aristotle book is on hold until I can get better sleep. Things are improving though, and within the past couple days, I have had enough energy to move from the couch to write this blog. Teddy is starting to nap more and sleep for more extended periods – he is now four months old, so I think the future looks bright. My point for this blog is to remind everyone that sleep is the most essential thing in our lives. If we don’t have sleep, we can’t be our best selves – physically mentally, and spiritually. When we sacrifice sleep, we sacrifice our ability to philosophize, to be optimistic, to eat healthily, and to connect with God. If you have a baby, I feel your pain. If you don’t have a small child then I implore you to shut the electronics and get some shut-eye – nothing else matters. If you feel like a zombie, you will function like a zombie.

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Teddy’s Three Month Update

This week’s post is much more uplifting than my last post. My son is now three months old and healthy as a horse; 12 solid pounds, vibrant energy, and a strong appetite. At this moment, I am watching him play and attempting to roll over – it’s a half roll but I imagine he’ll get it within the month. Christina and I regularly change his clothes because of spit up – sometimes we have to change our clothes because of projectile pee. If you have been following our journey, you may be wondering how the cloth diapers are going? Thanks to my in-laws I have a stockpile of disposable diapers that will keep us supplied for at least two months. The hardest point in the last three months was when Christina had to go back to work. Christina is an awesome Mom and a much better caregiver than me – my son is currently glaring at me while I write this blog. We’re trying to balance the transition but Christina is constantly missing her little sweet potato. Christina spent nine years to get her doctorate and her career is something that I wholeheartedly support; that statement may sound funny coming from a stay-at-home dad/philosopher but I believe she is at her best when helping psychiatric patients.

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Some highlights of the last month were Teddy’s vaccines and his circumcision. Both occasions left Teddy grumpy, restless, and irritable. The vaccines were a no brainer but I got some flack for the circumcision. People were worried that the procedure could be botched and Teddy’s wiener would be permanently damaged. I am happy to inform everyone that new methods of circumcision are 100% safe – when I say 100%, I mean 100%. There are no knives or sharp objects involved – all they use is a plastic ring and a string. The string goes around the foreskin while the ring protects the penis; after 7 to 14 days the foreskin and ring fall off. Teddy was in discomfort for two days and after that, he was back to his normal self. If in the future he yells at me for defiling his penis I will guide him to procedures that can regrow his foreskin – yes they actually exist. I don’t feel bad about the decision but I wanted to dispel some myths that it is a barbaric/irreversible procedure. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that the medical benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks: – risks that include post-operation infection and minor loss of sensitivity (a debated side effect that in gold-standard studies has been entirely refuted)(source)(source). If this subject interests you, I highly recommend reading the sources provided.

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Enough about circumcision. Let’s get to the cute pictures that our photographer took. Teddy continues to grow, mature, and marvel us with his personality and ability to fart hundreds of times a day. If you know a working mom, give her a hug – it is the hardest two jobs in the world. Thank you, Christina, for all you do and thank you, everyone, for the continued words of wisdom.

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My Health Problems – Bugs and God

Many of my close friends know this, but I have been struggling with tingling in my hands, face, and legs for the past three years. The tingling feels like bugs are crawling inside my skin – it is constant and never completely goes away. I am not in pain and do not feel any weakness or numbness – just a continuous tingling sensation day in and day out. What caused this to happen? I have two theories. First, three years ago, I went to a Piston’s game with a friend, and I drank too many Budweiser Selects. I was drunk the entire match and upon going home, I looked down at my feet and saw they were beet red. Along with the redness, I felt a mild tingling sensation – I was also up the entire night because of nausea. An important note is that I was never a big drinker in my 20’s and alcohol always impacted me more than my industrious friends. The day after the episode, I felt somewhat normal and the tingling had ceased. Midweek came and all of a sudden I woke up with tingling in my feet and a new phenomenon of tingling in my hands.

The first theory is that my three-year-long tingling is from a bad reaction to alcohol that somehow damaged my nervous system. I have not had a drop of alcohol since that Piston’s game and I now notice that my tingling gets worse when I am anxious or stressed. Here is the second theory: The month before the Piston’s game, I began an aggressive treatment to fix sciatic pain in my back through stretching and chiropractic manipulation. My back pain originated from a fall five and half years ago when I walked down an icy step of stairs and fell right on my lower spine – I laid on the cold ground for 10 minutes in excruciating pain. My 24-year-old self was not smart enough to seek treatment and instead, I went to the gym that day and squatted 250 pounds. For a year after the injury, I had to sit lopsided because there was too much pain on my right side to put any pressure. At this point, you can call me all the foul names you want – I agree with them wholeheartedly.

So back to the month of the Piston’s game when I was trying to aggressively treat my back injury. The chiropractor decided to treat my back with traction – a table that essentially pulls your back to extend it and relieve pressure. I felt no tingling while on the table but there was slight discomfort. Once my tingling began after the Piston’s game, many of my friends and family claimed it was caused by the traction. Today, when I do planks or specific exercises, my tingling gets worse. In respects to my facial tingling, that came about a year later when my wife had a miscarriage – my Mom gets facial tingling and I suspect that my facial tingling is unrelated to the tingling in my hands and legs. In the first year of tingling, I went to three doctors, had two MRIs, had 6 months of physical therapy, and still received no relief or answers.  So what is wrong with me?

To better answer that question, I recently went to another family doctor and a Neurologist. The family doctor didn’t think the tingling was from my back and prescribed me Cymbalta for anxiety – the Cymbalta made the tingling worse and destroyed my sex life. The Neurologist sent me to get an MRI of the brain to check for MS. The results showed that I have three lesions on my cerebellum, but I do not have MS. The Neurologist said the lesions didn’t look serious, but they could be benign brain tumors – in the end, they wouldn’t explain the tingling, and I have to go back in six months for another MRI. I’m not worried about the lesions because I have no symptoms that match a malfunction of the cerebellum. So I am back to square one.

At this point, I believe my leg tingling is from my back problems, my hand tingling is from back problems/anxiety/blood sugar changes, and my facial tingling is from pure anxiety.  I am not an overly anxious person, but I believe my anxiety manifests itself through tingling – other people may have headaches or stomach problems. Overall, my tingling has gotten significantly better since three years ago but my back pain is stubbornly persistent. I am still on a journey of discovery but I wanted to tell you all these things for one reason. God has helped me through all these trials and I am here today because of my faith. When it feels like bugs are crawling under your skin 24 hours a day, your mindset can go to dark places. I had the resolve to fight on because I knew people were praying for me and that in the end, everything would work out. I am a Christian for the very fact that I have seen God transform me over the past three years – wisdom truly comes through adversity. If you are feeling down, you are not alone. Google, social media, and even modern medicine will never be able to give you the strength to completely move forward. We are designed for a deep connection with our Creator – don’t push aside life’s greatest resource. I’ll keep you updated on about my lesions and tingling but, please keep me in your prayers.

If you have a struggle and need a sincere prayer, please email me at jonathan.oldham1@gmail.com.

Cleopatra≈Game of Thrones

Have you heard about the series Game of Thrones? For sure it’s a stupid question because even a squatter in the middle of the woods has the mass market paperback. Christina and I started the HBO show about 4 years ago, and I finally convinced my parents to give it a try – they are almost caught up after binge-watching for a month straight. I started to read the first book because I figured in 50 years it will be considered a classic like Lord of the Rings – there are five total installments in the series with two more set to release in the distant future. The reason I love Game of Thrones is that it reads like historical fiction and it helps me understand real life ancient history. Of course, the plot, characters, and dragons are not real, but the foundation of the series is based on an era of our very own past: an era of kings and queens,  love and murder, conquests and defeats. While reading the first book in the series – A Song of Ice and Fire – I was concurrently digesting a nonfiction work on Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. At times I thought both books were fiction because Cleopatra’s life mirrored the drama taking place in the medieval fantasy. Cleopatra’s rise and fall is no fantasy, but I hope to clear up a few misconceptions about one of the world’s most powerful women.

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Cleopatra was born in Alexandria, Egypt and was a member of the royal Ptolemaic family. The Ptolemaic dynasty began its rule over Egypt after Ptolemy I – a general of Alexander the Great – was appointed the leader of the region. The Ptolemies believed in keeping their family line pure and hence practiced incest. The very close-knit and confusing family tree of the Ptolemies resulted in an endless stream of murder for the sake of political power. By the time Cleopatra took control in 51 BC, the Ptolemaic dynasty was in a severe decline from its once prosperous beginnings; that decline was primarily due to the rising power in the west – the Roman Empire. Cleopatra was a ruthless politician who understood how to wrestle with Rome; her domestic resume included killing her brother-husband and most of her family members to ascend the throne.

 

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The most authentic image of Cleopatra we have today…not what most people imagine.

 

Along with murder, Cleopatra understood the art of seduction, and she found favor with Rome’s highest official – Julius Ceasar. The couple would have a child together and Cleopatra gained a critical military alliance. All came crashing down however for the Queen when Ceasar was assassinated by his fellow senators. Wasting no time, Cleopatra seduced Ceasar’s predecessor Mark Antony. Mark Antony was one of three Roman rulers after Ceasar’s death and was the man most likely to take total control of the empire. Antony would eventually be defeated by his co-ruler Octavian – later known as Ceaser Augustus. Cleopatra and Antony both committed suicide in their defeat; arguably history’s most dramatic love affair.

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Cleopatra’s life is fascinating, and throughout the ages, her image has been negatively caricatured. She is portrayed as a beautiful temptress who used sex to advance her political power. This picture is not entirely accurate and doesn’t give the Queen her due justice. Cleopatra was not physically beautiful, and she had to use her personality to seduce the greatest playboys of the age. That speaks to Cleopatra’s intelligence and wit during an era when women were little respected for their minds. Cleopatra also was not a sex-addict who was only concerned with hedonism. She was a compassionate ruler who was loved by the Egyptian people – her conquests of love brought prosperity to the citizens and her dynasty. More than anything, Cleopatra genuinely loved Antony and her children – a benevolent wife and mother until the very end. Cleopatra was one of the most wealthy and powerful women in the history of the world. We turn her into a sexual sound bite today, but have no doubt, she was an intelligent, reliable, and compassionate ruler. To understand Cleopatra’s success, let’s remember that the span of the Ptolemaic dynasty covered three centuries – a period longer than the current age of the United States of America. Cleopatra was the most successful and famous leader during that long rule. Before you dig into Game of Thrones, read about Cleopatra; incest, murder, politics, and power has no better model.

Two Months of Fatherhood

My friends asked me a couple weeks ago if I was enjoying my time as a father. I hesitated for a moment because a firm “YES!” would have been a complete lie. I couldn’t blurt out a resounding applaud for my son because, at the time, Teddy was going through his 6-week growth spurt; apparently, babies have several growth spurts within the first year. He went from an angelic newborn with predictable sleeping habits to a grumpy-old-man who wants to escape the nursing home. There was nothing we could do to soothe him, and his fussiness tested my patience to the point that I fantasized about sleeping in the garage. The growth spurt lasted a couple of weeks, and we are starting to see some rays of hope. Teddy is now 2 months old and weighs a whopping 11 pounds. We took him in for his first round of vaccinations; he cried a little bit but we promised him  ice cream afterward – Christina and I really enjoyed the ice cream.

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If my friends asked me today if I enjoyed my time as a father, I would leap up and give them a hug. I know there will be more growth spurts and hard times, but Teddy’s personality is starting to blossom – a big deal to all fathers. Newborn babies stress me out, and you can’t really do much with them because they are asleep 90 percent of the time – either sleeping, eating, or crying. Two-month-old Teddy, on the other hand, enjoys kicking his legs, smiling, and getting his double chin squeezed. It’s not much, but for a father who has no maternal bone in his body, it is a big step towards one day throwing a baseball or talking about Plato. I find it interesting the difference between men and women during the baby phase. Christina is always on the verge of tears thinking of Teddy becoming a man. I, on the other hand, am excited about those formidable years of Teddy’s maturity.

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Of course, we both are going to enjoy the journey, but it is definitely apparent which part of that journey best fits our personality. Christina is an amazing Mom, and she could probably nurture a rabid dog to sleep. My forte is being a coach and motivator – attributes which don’t kick in until much later. This points to a key philosophical concept. Children need both masculinity and feminity while growing up – the Ying and Yang of parenthood. There is a lot of arguments over sex and gender in today’s world, but I don’t believe anyone can argue that it doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes a village of people because men and women bring unique gifts to the table of life. There is a big problem today of men leaving their families; a father or male role-model is essential. Consider the following stats…

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
  • 85% of all children who show behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average.  (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.  (National Principals Association Report)
  • 70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.  (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988)
  • 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction)
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census]
  • 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999]
  • 90% of adolescent repeat arsonists live with only their mother. [Wray Herbert, “Dousing the Kindlers,” Psychology Today, January, 1985, p. 28]
  • 75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. [Rainbows f for all God’s Children]

To find out more information about fatherless households go to the National Fatherhood Initiative

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Some of these stats are from the 20th century but the findings today show the same detrimental pattern. We need good men to help raise the next generation of children – and I hope to be enlisted in that pursuit. So the next time my friends ask me how I am enjoying my fatherhood…I will try not to hesitate too long :).

 

Partition – Is It Ever A Good Thing?

I live in the United States of America and I am very proud of its melting pot of culture, religion, ethnicity, and political beliefs. In respects to religion, I am a Christian sharing this great land of freedom with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Scientologists – among many others. In general, people get along in America counter to what people see on the news and social media – the fact that it is “news” gives you a marker for context. This cohesion is in large part due to economic, social, and geographical cooperation. The fact that all 50 states have relatively fluid borders – sorry Hawaii – allows people to interact and form connections; connections which provide the zest to America’s delicious stew. Not everyone agrees with me on these points and some desire to split away from the red, white, and blue; nearly every election, there is a call for Texas, Northern California, Southern California, Florida, the south, or the north to form their own country. Today, around the world, there are serious calls for partition. To better understand this history of division, I read about one of the most contentious partitions in history – the separation of Palestine and Isreal – in the book O, Jerusalem! By Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre.   

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The partition of Palestine occurred after WWII and was caused by several concurrent events: A British desire to withdraw from the region because of increased retaliation from both Jews and Arabs; reparations for Holocaust victims and Jewish refugees who had no place to go; an increased nationalist movement by Zionists; and the West’s desire to keep communism from gaining a foothold. The United Nations voted to partition the region in 1947 and on May 14th, 1948, the state of Israel became official. Partition began a war that still rages today between Arabs and Jews – the first year of conflict claimed the lives of thousands of men, women, and children. Between 1947 to 1967, the Arabs had the upper hand on the Jews with their control of Jerusalem and major trading settlements. The Jews flipped the table in the War of 1967, and since then they have been slowly suffocating the Palestinians. Today, the state of Israel, with the backing of America, maintains dominance in the region. That dominance results in the persecution of Palestinians and continued hatred between the two groups.

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My question is this – Why was Palestine partitioned in the first place? Why couldn’t the region be one cohesive state with multiple religions like America? Maybe a better question…Why does America support the current state of separation when it goes completely counter to her own beliefs? Another example of the disaster of partition is the formation of Pakistan and India in 1947 which resulted in the death of 600,000 people and today is one of the most dangerous borders in the world. On paper, partition seems like a great idea; divide people based on their differences and then each state will have cohesiveness. The problem is that we don’t live in a bubble and arbitrary borders don’t mean much in real life. When a partition occurs, it is impossible to expel all members of a religion or ethnicity – there will be Jews in Palestine, Arabs in Israel, Hindus in Pakistan, and Muslims in India. The result is an obvious division between states and greater conflict within countries because the “unwanted” groups are seen as “internal outsiders” – separate in identity and a matchbox for intra-neighborhood conflict.

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So is partition ever a good thing? I think not. I think the state can unify people under a common banner of religion, ethnicity, and culture. I am a white-Christian-male, but that doesn’t mean I should have my own country. I am an American and that means that I share a connection with all Americans. The key is a balance between the two extremes; we can respect differences while maintaining a collective identity. So what is the solution to the problems in Palestine and India? To start with, we need to be good role models of statehood – let’s show the world what it looks like to be unique and united at the same time. One of my favorite leaders is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He didn’t push for a separate black nation but pushed for a united America behind a universal belief – the belief that all men are created equal. Is this an easy thing to do? Heck No. Is this something that can work? Heck Yes. Change is slow, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. What’s impossible is unification through division.

 

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