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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, June 13, 2019 1:00 am

Sorting the sounds

Voices call us to action; are we listening?

Francis Frellick

Not long after his notable service to Indiana and our nation, former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton observed that most recently elected governmental leaders begin their campaign for reelection the day they take office. He went on to indicate that that pursuit often dictates their speeches and actions for as long as they are in office.

The first rule of that game is to stick with the winning tribe, all the way. The next is to try not to speak out or act on “difficult” issues. You know, that sort of behavior that could leave our nation with a do-little Congress that merely rubber stamps the dictates of the party in power. It could even give encouragement to international rogue leaders with designs on running part or all of the world. (Of course, if only one out of four eligible voters actually votes in any election, nothing much is likely to change.)

Well, have you noticed that some powerful new voices are being raised around the world? By people who have nothing but their lives and freedom to lose?

Some readers may recall the horrifying photo of a little girl running naked down a road in South Vietnam to escape a napalm fire in Vietnam. Her name is Kim Phuc.

She recalls today how that experience affected her: “Sixty-five percent of my body was burned, and I had to endure many surgeries. For many years I also lost my ability to trust. I was filled with anger and bitterness toward my government, toward Americans, toward anyone who was 'normal.' ”

After moving to Cuba and then to Canada, she says, “In 1992, I began to confront my past and make a new home and a new life for myself. ... Many doctors and caring individuals helped me, beginning with Nick Ut, the Associated Press photographer who took the picture and rushed me to the hospital, saving my life. Now I can experience love, peace and forgiveness. ... I thought I would never have children. ... Now I am married and have two beautiful sons.”

This might seem to readers a lovely ending to a tragic war story. Actually, it's not the end, but a new beginning of the same story.

Kim Phuc goes on: “The foundation I founded is working ... with other humanitarian organizations” to persuade Congress to provide greater protection for women and children still struggling with the attendant horrors of rape, mutilation, prostitution, recruitment of children into the military, etc. in Vietnamese refugee camps. This mother, herself a tragic war victim, is now speaking up and acting powerfully for needed change. An urgent voice to be listened to!

Then there's the 15-year-old Swedish student doing battle daily with autism. Exasperated with continued inaction for climate control, Greta Thunberg decided it was time for her to act. She'd been moved deeply by the Parkland, Florida, student-led walkouts over gun violence in the U.S.

She announced she was going on strike. She made a big poster, proclaiming her concerns for our shared climate, and boldly sat down on the school steps beside it. A lot of people saw what she was doing and told others about her brave stand (or sit!). She decided to take her solitary strike to the steps of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm. Eventually, Greta was invited to address a large climate-control rally in Helsinki, Finland, and later, to London, for an “Extinction Rebellion” in London to educate adults on civil disobedience. Her now-powerful voice was being heard!

On May 17, The Journal Gazette reported on a memorial service at a church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, honoring the short life of Kendrick Castillo. The young man, about to graduate from high school, had died when, with two classmates, he'd rushed and disarmed one of the two who shot and killed eight others besides himself. Their voices were their actions to stop the shooters. But what powerful voices they were and are! Some 2,000 neighbors and fellow citizens gathered at a church to memorialize the lives lost in this community tragedy.

Around the world, young people are looking out on the world they are soon to inherit. They see the senseless, self-destructive strife between racial factions, religious organizations, nationalists and immigrants, etc., primarily geared toward beating the opposition. They see this is accomplishing almost nothing while we drift, en masse, toward one or another cause of our potential destruction. These perceptive young people see that each of us has to become involved in what's to be done. They are speaking today in a new, strong voice, and they're calling us to respond.

Our mission right now is to select from the plethera of declared candidates those who are capable and committed to work together on the challenges before us. Then we have to vote!

Francis Frellick is a Fort Wayne resident.