9.13.2012

And So, My Fellow Americans ...

We live in an insular society. Our faces, forever shielded behind our laptops, our iPads, and our smart phones. In our free time, we scroll through the news feed on Facebook hitting "LIKE" on our friend's pictures and status updates, to show our support, yet absolve us of the obligation to write a quick comment. When we do comment on something news worthy like ... a birth, new job, an illness, or death, we spend as little time as possible offering up our congrats, prayers, and blessings. Because, the reality is that we're so absorbed in our own lives that we don't notice what's going on in the world around us.

We spent the entire day Monday pontificating about 9/11/01. We remembered those who had fallen for our great Country. We told our stories about where we all were ... for most of us remember exactly what we were doing when we heard about the planes hitting the World Trade Center, or when the buildings collapsed. We can articulate how it affected us. As individuals. As a nation. It changed who many of us were.

But it's tough to care. To care means you need to put forth an emotional investment. And there's only so much benevolence to go around. We're so busy providing compassion for family for friends that to try and empathize with people we don't know in a far off land is difficult. It's overwhelming. And it's probably the reason why State Department families congregate towards each other. Like minds ...

The Mission of a U.S. diplomat in the Foreign Service is to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad. And while we all expect a certain modicum of increased security for those folks serving like my husband in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, the other personnel, sworn in to uphold our Constitution in almost every other country in the world, well, are no less important. And as we know, in countries any less dangerous. These folks, paired with The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), are on the front line helping other countries while promoting America's ideals. But unlike DS agents, the FSO's are the unarmed warriors. They're diplomatic soldiers, who understand that there are inherent risks associated with the job, yet who still go out into their foreign lands to interact and try to make the world a better place.

It's been a difficult week for the State Department. From the suicide bombing in Peshawar, to the death of a DS agent's son, from the chaos in Egypt and Yemen, a recent cancer diagnosis for a colleague, to the senseless attacks and deaths of the American Personnel in Benghazi, Libya. These tragedies hit home. They affect me. They effect us. I'm mad. And I'm struggling with the knowledge that nobody else cares. Sure, those of us in the State Department do. Officers and EFM's (Eligible Family Members) alike. But if you aren't disturbed by a lockdown in your house, a revolution in your country, if you don't have that personal connection, it just doesn't mean the same thing. Despite the irony that these are the folks fighting to uphold your freedoms and civil liberties ... which would be noticed if they were taken away.

For those of us who do this for a living, we don't do it for the recognition. In fact, most people look at us like we're crazy for living and working in some of the places we do. But we do it anyway because it's a calling.

Tomorrow, when the media headlines again return to political infighting, the chatter on Facebook and twitter dies down, people go back to pinning recipes and art projects on Pinterest and watching their reality TV, please remember and appreciate those of us serving in virtual anonymity in some of the farthest corners of the world, away from our family and friends, representing our country and its ideals. We do it so you don't have to ...

"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." ~ John F. Kennedy, Inaugural address, January 20, 1961

20 comments:

Robin said...

Thinking of you and holding you all close in my heart - and not just when I read the headlines.

Some of us, in some places, sadly do understand all too well.

xox

Christy said...

I care. But you already knew that.

Really well written piece Jill - you should submit this to the FS magazine - I'm sure it would resonate all throughout your community.

xoxo

Julie said...

JIll, I stumbled across your blog just as you began planning your return to the states from India. I must admit I found your life in an exotic locale enviable and interesting, though recognizing some of the hardship. I don't think anyone can fully appreciate the difficulties of daily life in a developing country (especially with small children) unless you've lived it - which I have not. Still, I have thought of you and your family many times in the last 36 hours or so. I have been glued to the television (and broken hearted over Ambassador Stevens assassination). Please know that prayers of safety and of thanks for all foreign service workers and their families are being lifted up by us civilians. Some of us do appreciate your sacrifice and we are grateful.

Delhibound said...

"And I'm struggling with the knowledge that nobody else cares."

That sentence applies to so, so many things. So many examples and situations that prove how much is wrong with our society today.

The reality is that non-FS, non-DOS, non-acronym'd folks really CANNOT understand or have the same heartache, because it's a loss from a family that most don't know.

Most don't understand the inner workings of a security detail, or even the role of an Ambassador in another country. That's just the way it is, from the outside looking in.

We feel we *know* it a bit just because of the VAST size of the Delhi embassy ... we got invited in a bit, so to speak. It crushed and rocked me (to my core) to read the ensuing news as it was happening.

It is something though (as I feel about the poverty, lack of education, lack of clean water (on and on and on) that I also feel for Delhi. I am incensed that no one else cares ... but the only thing I can do is simply act on my OWN accord ...

Hugs to you, friend ...

Unknown said...

I have a friend who's in the Foreign Service, who just came back from India. She's been in Libya, in Cairo. She's how I hear about all the trials and tribulations the other branch of our goverment in harms way goes through.

Bless you all for what YOU do!

st said...

I care. I'm not a member of the FS community but I still feel that in a way I am. I have friends that I served in Peace Corps with who went on to DoS. My love of other cultures and travel led me to follow some FS blogs, including yours. One of my first thoughts when I heard about the tragic events in Benghazi were for a FSO (Hannah) who is there now, who I've never met, but hoped she was safe.

You are not alone in your pain. Many, many people care and respect the sacrifices that you and all the other members of the FS family make by serving our country. Thank you for all you do.

Issas Crazy World said...

I care friend. I care.

Mom24 said...

I think that's one reason these blogs are so important. It makes it real, and when it's real, you have to care.

(((Hugs)))

McKeatings said...

Well said! It's scary for us. I'm sitting here in peace and safety right now but always aware that we ship out next summer to a somewhat dangerous post in SEA. These events have caused me to wonder and ask myself if we can really do this. Seeing folks write in and explain that they care and get the challenges we and our kids face is really helpful, actually. Thank you all!

Adrian Pratt said...

Very well put, Jill. My wife told me that at our son's soccer match in a small town in NC last night they played the national anthem - which they don't normally do - and flew the flag at half staff. This they did for our fallen colleagues. I was stunned and touched - as was my son.

Mandy said...
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Mandy said...

My husband is a DS Agent, currently assigned in Baghdad. I'm in the states anxiously waiting for this year to be over. Prior to this, we were in Bahrain and were part of the group that was evacuated in February of 2011 due to the protests there. Prior to Bahrain, we were in Abuja, Nigeria which was an incredibly hard and frustrating post. This life is no joke and it's not as luxurious as people think. It is truly a life of sacrifice, even if there are some great rewards involved with living the FS life. A friend linked to this post on Facebook and I appreciate your poignant words. I couldn't have said it better myself. Thank you.

Sweaters said...

It's not that we don't care - we most certainly and profoundly do - it's just that we're confused about our response.

This latest injustice just boggles our minds. I've pondered it every day since, and discussed it with friends. We all suffer the same confusion.

We went to great lengths to help these people get rid of a tryant within their midst, and this is how they repay our concern for their well being, our genorosity?

It makes us want to scream "Screw You!" to the entire middle east and walk away.

Yet ever the forward thinker, President Obama brought me back to reason when he said, "We can't withdraw from the world."

I know he's correct, but it all just seems so pointless.

Maybe if I believed this action truly wasn't sanctioned by the everyday people of Libia, it might make me fell a little bit better. Maybe even less angry.

But right now, with what little I know, I want to tell them all to "burn in hell." I know it's wrong, but I'm no diplomat, and this is how I feel inside.

I don't want to feel like this; but at this point what else is there?

Andrea SunnyDays said...

It's hard to know what to say, because you live the life of someone directly affected by so many things I don't even think about, let alone know about. I tell myself I don't watch the news because I don't want my kids to see stories about murder and all the very bad things that go on in this world.
Preserve their innocence.
But what I'm really doing is hiding from the reality that there are very bad things in this world, just as there are good things. And it's people like you, your husband and your family, along with so many others I've 'met' through this blog, that I can say thank you with complete sincerity for all that they do. All the risks they take. All the things they sacrifice just to make sure I get one more day to see the good parts in the world. It is a sacrifice I don't know that I could make. This blog opens my eyes in a lot of ways to things I didn't know about. So thank you to you too, for letting us see a part of what goes into making sure America is the land of the free.

Becky said...
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Becky said...

Well said Jill. As always, you nailed it.

Sweaters, I don't know if it helps, but there are real Libyans who don't feel that way at all. That meant a lot to me personally and gave me some hope. You might want to check out the Sorry Project on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheSorryProject

Sweaters said...

Becky, That was quite helpful. Nice to view it from another perspective. Thank you.

Anna See said...

Thank you for this post, Jill. Sending it to several friends now.

Khairul Islam said...

Just saying hi and ty for this post.
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Suzanne said...

Jill, I've been reading and commenting for a long time now. I came across your blog and another FS blog and it occurred to me that I knew nothing about the life and trials of serving our country in that capacity. MOM24 is correct in the fact that your blog is important to give people an idea of what your life entails. There's no other way we'd ever get a look inside.

It does make it real and we care about you and your family although we've never actually met. I was mortified when I heard the news of the attacks on the embassies because YOUR blog made these people real in my mind.

When I heard the embassy in Channai was in danger I just about jumped out of my chair. That's where you were!! Stay safe. Let us know if there's anything we can do for you.

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