At Work Thinking
by James Glaser
April 9, 2009

I was cutting on the band saw today. I am good at it as I have been doing it for thirty years now. What I am doing is cutting out parts for a relief sculpture. I have patterns rubber cemented onto pieces of hardwood, and my goal is to have the teeth of the band saw blade just ticking against the side of the paper pattern. In theory, if I can keep my cut really close to the edge of the paper, the pieces will fit together with not a lot of filing and sanding.

Like I said, I have been doing this type of saw work for over thirty years, and I know the blade of the saw is going to stay right where it is. If I can keep my fingers away from the blade, I won't get blood on the wood. So, really this part of the process is pretty mindless, and it gives me time to think. I can't listen to music or talk radio as the saw makes too much noise, and hearing the sound of the saw cutting can tell you if the curve you are trying to cut is too sharp. So thinking is about all you can do extra.

Today, while thinking and sawing, I was wondering why America is trying so hard to make other countries like us. We talk about wanting to bring freedom and democracy to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. In the past it has been Vietnam, Panama, Granada, Haiti, and the Balkans. I have to ask, "Why we are doing that."

Right now, we are about 5% of the world's population, but we use about 25% of the world's natural resources. So, if we bring freedom and democracy to other countries, most likely they will want to develop their economies, too. It isn't like there is extra oil, forest products, iron, aluminum, and fresh water sitting around waiting for some third world country to develop so it can be sold. Just about every natural resource is spoken for by us, the European Union, or countries in the Far East like Japan, Korea, or China.

Yes, it is nice to think about bringing freedom to the rest of the world, but why are we pushing democracy? Most of the world doesn't even understand the concept. The truth is, freedom is a hard one for them.

How about we start out with trying to bring the world clean drinking water? Then we could introduce indoor plumbing and electricity. Then hit them with a big one, like education. Move on to equal rights, and by that time we will be in the twenty second century.

Pushing everything onto third world countries all at once does not work. In truth, we don't have the democracy thing down very well here at home. We still haven't figured out how to get everyone to vote. Maybe the purple ink on the thumb would help here.

We want to push our brand of living on the world, but we are the most violent society on the globe. By a wide margin, we have more of our citizens in prison than any other country. We can't even figure out how to get health care to all of our citizens. We could use a few lessons from other countries on that one.

We are the United States of America, and we have our own set of problems. We have millions of people who can't read or write. Our races don't get along very well, and get this, we owe more money than any other country. We don't know how to handle our finances.

So, I am standing there at the band saw, and I am wondering why we don't work on our own problems. In a hundred or so years, when we have everything worked out, then we can start telling the rest of the world how to do things.

Until then, we should keep silent.

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