Thursday, April 9, 2009
Following the Rules - The NPR, IRAN and ESTHER Connection
Years ago when I was young and impressionable I enjoyed listening to the radio in the car. In fact, it wasn't long after I had graduated from undergrad that I brought my first car. I got immense pleasure out of the R & B tunes that lingered in the air on the way to and from work. I had always had a cursory relationship with music - I rarely knew the lyrics but loved the rhythm and moods that served as a backdrop to my growing up years. Then I had my world turned upside down. I met a nerd boy who loved politics, BBSCon Conferences, talked legislation for recreation and connected to other breeds like him. And he didn't listen to R & B in the car. We'd head out to the movies or dinner and he'd turn on NPR, and I'd be irritated for 2 reasons - he changed my radio and he listened to stuff I didn't want to hear about. I found many reasons to be irritated and routinely enjoyed turning the music to unheard volumes and listening to the latest pop hit.
The only problem was my future husband sucked the joy out of my experience. He slowly implied through word and deed a belief that the majority of our community wasn't really informed about international and political (geopolitical) issues. I don't like being underestimated. As my commute times expanded I started realizing that I needed more to keep me awake on the drive - music wouldn't always cut it. I started listening to NPR. The problem with this integration into my habits - I stopped enjoying my R & B. Don't get me wrong, Maxwell will beat Morning Edition many days for me. Yet, it started to occur to me that the vast majority of music I listened to was a bit foul. There weren't a lot uplifting experiences being sung to a beat that made me sway - a lot of the lyrics were just plain foul. I started realizing that music alone wasn't fulfilling. When making the Ohio to Michigan drive I soon learned what public radio, Christian radio and talk radio programs would be of interest any day. I memorized the little ad jingles and gained a new respect for good comedy - and I got addicted to public radio. Urggh. I started seeking additional information from the stories, and the days of mindless entertainment just seemed to decrease in volumes.
So today I was commuting to Martinsville and I turned on the radio. The topic of the day - IRAN. A series of callers discussed the shift of the US policy to discuss nuclear energy, the status of Roxana Saberi, and the perceived western media bias regarding Iranians. A particular caller said that anyone could visit Iran as long as they understood the rules - and followed the rules. Her voice was of particular interest as she calmly communicated that the issue isn't IRAN, it is the lack of respect for the rules of Iran which are really clear. I couldn't shake the comment for the remainder of my trip. (Including the portion when I'm a really effective facilitator for non-profit excellence in capacity building and strategic planning.) I thought to myself, if in all situations we communicate the rules - then we can be exempted from what happens when people don't follow them. Is that right?
Roxana Saberi, an American journalist, has been charged with espionage by Iranian authorities. At last investigation her lawyer had not seen her, or any evidence, in the last 2 weeks. The Iranian authorities have indicated that she confessed to the charges against her, a charge of espionage that has evolved from operating without press credentials. She has been in Iran for 6 years, and was due to return to the US this year according to her father. Her father is Iranian, her mother is Japanese and she was born in the US. There is something innately wrong with me knowing all of these details. Further, I have started applying the logic of the guest to all situations. Did Roxana know the rules and simply break them - or did the Iranian government decide to use her as a pawn in an intense political climate? I don't know. But I admit 15 years after the height of my R & B enjoyment, I care about the fate of Roxana. My daughter is a promising writer and journalist, and I bet she would travel the nation to write about intriguing things. If she was writing a book about Iran and the rules of her life were moving targets for political will, I would want someone to care.
One of my favorite Biblical heroes is Esther, Queen of Persia. I was an adult before I realized that Iran was known as Persia up until 1935 - which makes it more intriguing when I learn about the political debates of the time. Nuclear energy not being used for a weapon - uh, okay. I listened to several callers talk about the poor perceptions of Iran tied to Western media. I wonder, however, where the dividing line exists between the people and the government. I was intrigued to hear many people talk of their love of country and culture, while implying that they were not truly represented by their government. I knew instinctively what they meant. I knew what Michelle Obama meant when she said she was proud of her country for the first time - and watched the spiral of criticisms from those who didn't understand. When I read about Esther, she knew the rules and did not follow them. In fact, she said with the resolve and dignity of a woman who could undeniably lead me - if I die, I die. Some rules are meant to be broken. The question becomes, are we ready for all of the consequences? Can you ever be really ready? When we are talking about nuclear power, there are going to be consequences in epic proportion.
I don't know any great leader who doesn't break some of the rules. My husband aided in the changing of my rules regarding where my recreational energy rests. I love music, I just love mental stimulation more. Smart music - that's another post. But today, my mind is still racing about politics, rules and consequences.
Obama is breaking the rules with his choice to talk to other governments. Everyone and their mother has an opinion. We aren't making the choices, but the consequences will be ours to share. Roxana Saberi made choices, but the consequences seem desperately out of her control. I was led to think about Esther in the midst of these reflections, a young Queen anointed and appointed by God. She knew the rules and made the decision to do what was right regardless. The rules would have her dead, but she rests in the mind and hearts of millions because of a choice to seek God. Its hard to seek anything if you aren't open to what exists within our world. More importantly, without some perspective about how God can use anyone, we might actually believe that its all about the rules. All about God's rules yes, the rules that others create, not so much. Rules are made and broken on any given day - some we cherish for their bravery, others we mourn for their risk.
I'm glad that I can rock out to Keyshia Cole and see the connection between what we hear, what we see and what we believe. Rules are only relevant if we are in covenant with the person who created them. Saberi doesn't appear to have been connected to the Iranian Rules. If it isn't God's Rules we're talking about though, breaking them is in season and the connections between what comes to us is intimately tied to how we understand a much bigger picture. A picture where some of life's best moments are breaking rules.