The Syria Series//The Big Bully//Shannon Fuller//

Shannon Fuller is a Freshman Cortina Student, studying Creative Writing and French. She is from Wisconsin. This is where she stands with regard to the possibility of the United States’ intervention in Syria.

As a young novelist and poet I seek to bring peoples minds and hearts back to whatever core beliefs they have. I do not wish to glorify poverty, nor do I wish to glorify wealth. I do, however, wish to follow in the footsteps of my betters and glorify peace. At this point, what I most wish for Syria is peace. I hope that somehow it can be achieved without sending more young men into battle with our flag pressed upon their shoulders. I do not wish for another Vietnam, and this “war on terror” or “war on dictatorship” is exactly what I feared it would be as a child. I feared this war would never end and that we would continue to find reasons to go to other places and fight. My fears are confirmed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria.  We cannot fight dictatorship when we as a country have so many problems here.

People here think of our country as the big brother. The government must realize that we have problems of our own that we need to deal with. We cannot aid those “weaker” when we ourselves are weak. The Syrian government is wrong, but going in and killing more people solves nothing. Agent Orange was a chemical used in Vietnam that still produces birth defects in the country today. The United States also dropped the first atomic bomb and we all know how that ended. What so many people see as the “big brother” is actually the “big bully.”

There are so many issues in our own country that we must try to remove these first as a country before we can be an “example” for other countries. The number of shootings domestically and criminally in our country far out number those of any other Western country. We must open our eyes and see that the power we were in the World Wars is gone, and our intentions have not gotten any more moral since. We are a country that others look at and see as imperialist, and we are. We don’t help other countries unless it benefits us. We are not who we once were. We are not creating independence for others or ourselves. We are not freeing the slaves, in fact, again we are creating them in China and in Mexico. We are following in the same downward spiral as we did in the Cold War only this time we’re dragging more people under with us.

We have never benefited any country we invaded, or “helped.” In the Cold War, we invaded and paid off dictators who kidnapped small children and who destroyed young peoples lives. They kidnapped and killed people our own age and their blood ran through the streets. In Syria, we will try to create an election, the election will happen (eventually) and if that election produces an unfavorable outcome we will replace that person with someone that WE want. It happened in South America and it will happen in the Middle East.

I learned what I know in an International Baccalaureate class in Milwaukee and I left the class angered and frustrated with my country. I ask myself: “Why do we stand back and do nothing? Why do we say nothing?” I don’t need guitars and communes or bare feet to get my point across. I want to write my words down and strike fear with my “pen.” For, it worked for my betters, why should it not too work for me? We must remember where we came from and study it so we do not repeat the same mistakes that we have made. We as a generation must be proud of the people we are and the choices our generation made. Arrest me if you must, Paine and Hugo too spent their time behind bars. I will only speak truth. I do not wish for anarchy, because that only brings chaos. I am not for chaos. I am gentle chaos. The power is in the people, that is what we must remember.

As I wrote this to you I was listening to Imagine by John Lennon and I have to say the one line that always sticks out to me is this: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” I sincerely hope that I am not alone.

5 thoughts on “The Syria Series//The Big Bully//Shannon Fuller//

  1. Shannon,

    First, let me applaud you for engaging in this conversation. Though the participation of all people is important in this dialogue, it brings me particular joy to see college freshmen who already understand the importance of expanding their thinking beyond their immediate reality.

    I echo your plea for hope, and I admire the passion with which you write. Because I respect your ability and desire to engage in this conversation, however, I want to continue a discussion on a few aspects of your post.

    First, your post seems overall guided by an argument made for centuries in U.S. politics – the argument that only once domestic issues are resolved can we engage in international struggle. “We cannot fight dictatorship when we as a country have so many problems here,” as you said. I caution you to think about the permanence of this statement. Because you also say “Why do we stand back and do nothing?” I know you are not for inaction. The question you must unfortunately answer next is, “when will we not have so many problems here?”

    The answer is probably never. Not because the struggles currently headlining the U.S. domestic conversation will never be solved, but because we will always have “new” evils to overcome. That is the nature of progress. If we constrain ourselves to standing with or acting for our brothers and sisters in a different country only when we have achieved domestic perfection, then we are isolationists, now and forever.

    Second, I would encourage you, in future conversations (of which I hope you will have many), to be wary of convoluting your message with irrelevant factors. Besides the domestic struggles already addressed, I am unsure what your claims about foreign perception, our post-WWII power, and economic injustice in China and Mexico have to do with the current Syria conversation.

    Finally, and this is perhaps the most delicate and most important point (but please, as much as you can without us knowing each other, believe me that I offer this caution because I love that you are engaging in this conversation, and because I truly believe you and others like you can make a real difference), I caution you against making this conversation about you. Passion, emotion, creativity, and art are absolutely essential to this conversation, but it is imperative we do not let ourselves become distracted or self-concerned. My caution seems sharp because I am all too familiar with this trap. Your asking to be arrested and pleas that you are not the only dreamer are both concerns you know to be false. Of course you will not be arrested. Of course you are not the only one dreaming for peace (see all below posts on this blog). Your words are beautiful, but take care they do not distract from the real focus of this dialogue—the Syrian people.

    Again, thank you for engaging in this conversation. I do not see myself more wise, more competent, or even remotely more qualified to have this conversation than you do. I offer this challenge because our generation does, as you articulated, possess tremendous power, but we also need to be challenged if we are to grow and improve.

    With love and sincere gratitude,
    Westin

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  2. Hi Westin,
    I think you’re misinterpreting Shannon’s foregrounding of her position as a “young novelist and poet.” She is not saying these things to make the conversation about her. She says this as a rhetorical move to clarify for the reader the type of essay they are about to read: the style of the piece will be less linear, direct, and “argumentative” and more interpretive and suggestive. Hence Shannon alludes to China, Mexico, post-WWII power without fully developing these connections force the reader to consider these as possible parallel political situations. She highlights her positionality here so that we know the terms of the argument she is choosing to make. In fact, I would say that by drawing attention to her subjectivity, she actually makes a stronger and more honest “argument” by not pretending to be a robot who processes facts and spits them back out, but a human being with peculiar and unique ways of making sense of a messy world. (And in doing so, aligns herself with a long line of esteemed feminist rhetoricians.) And even if Shannon weren’t consciously and responsibly contextualizing herself as a rhetor in this debate, I want to know why you think that “passion, emotion, creativity, and art” (which you lump together, though these all seem like really different things to me) cause us to “become distracted or self-concerned.”

    The tone of your response, especially referring to her as a “college freshm[a]n”–a position she herself does not identify–and saying you “applaud” her “engagement” sounds like “nice try, young Skywalker” to me. But I don’t feel like you really tried to read this piece on her terms, terms which may not fly for a scholarly article in a political science journal, but seem more than appropriate for a spirited discussion among colleagues.

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  3. Faith,
    Thank you for responding. When I said “we also need to be challenged if we are to grow and improve,” I absolutely include myself in that category.

    I think you are right about my misinterpretation of Shannon’s general purpose with this essay, which I think stems from my own narrow-minded interpretation of what this series asked the essays to be, “critical persectives”. When I hear the words “critical perspective,” especially when applied to politics, my default interpretation is that we are analyzing potential policy choices, and our main criteria should be how they affect the Syrian people. I should be more aware of the obvious truth that not everyone will interpret those words the same way. Thank you for the reminder.

    I am not, however, criticizing Shannon for being subjective. Objectivity is not what we need. I would criticize anyone who claims “objectivity” in this conversation is dangerously towing a dehumanizing and robotic line (one who not only “processes facts and spits them back out,” as you said, but who is also incapable of accounting for humanity in the conversation). Of course passion, emotion, creativity, and art are very different. I said they CAN cause us to become distracted or self-concerned, an important word that if omitted make me sound like an objectivist, and i don’t really know how to explain any further than what I said above:
    “Your asking to be arrested and pleas that you are not the only dreamer are both concerns you know to be false. Of course you will not be arrested. Of course you are not the only one dreaming for peace (see all below posts on this blog). Your words are beautiful, but take care they do not distract from the real focus of this dialogue—the Syrian people.”
    As I said before, it is difficult for me not to read all of these essays through any lens other than the utility they may have for the Syrian people. Unfortunately, our pleas to be arrested or fears that we are the only dreamers (which are, again, the only parts of Shannon’s “subjectivity” to which I offer any criticism) are of no use to the Syrians. I really am trying to open my mind to the use of other lenses in this conversation.

    Finally, it is a little heartbreaking to hear that I sounded so condescending. I almost didn’t leave the comment in the first place for fear that would happen.

    Mostly I’m frustrated by the decontextualized words that easily make me sound like a pompous ass.

    I refer to the fact that she is a college freshman (which was, by the way, done in the bi-line of her post) to celebrate her. “it brings me particular joy to see college freshmen who already understand the importance of expanding their thinking beyond their immediate reality.” When I was a college freshman, I would never have given the time to contribute to this conversation. I was too self-obsessed. The same is true for most college freshmen. Shannon is shining in an extraordinary way, and I was trying to bring attention to how remarkable I already think she is.

    I said “applaud,” because that is what I am trying to do. Celebrate, applaud, encourage, and challenge her out of respect. Also, I literally applauded to myself when I read her post. I was thrilled to read it.

    I’m not what to say in defense of the word “engagement.” It’s what we’re doing.

    To reiterate my original comment, “Again, thank you for engaging in this conversation. I do not see myself more wise, more competent, or even remotely more qualified to have this conversation than you do. I offer this challenge because our generation does, as you articulated, possess tremendous power, but we also need to be challenged if we are to grow and improve.”

    I am sorry it came across condescending. I am trying to shape this blog into a space in which we learn from each other not only by posting, but my having our points challenged so we can continue to grow.

    With that in mind, thank you for encouraging me to grow as well. I appreciate the comment.

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  4. Thanks for this thoughtful response Westin. I really appreciated the way you refined and clarified your argument (and I enjoyed the visual image of you applauding at your computer screen). I’m sorry if I misinterpreted the tone of your writing. Thank you for explaining it more clearly.

    It’s understandable that you view the blog posts through the lens of “the utility they may have for the Syrian people.” Any situation involving US intervention should cause us to re-evaluate (as you have done so gracefully here) our Superman impulses–our constant desire to swoop in and save the day–because large scale social change is often much longer, much slower, and much messier than superhero narratives would have us believe. I am reminded of feminist scholar Susan Bordo: “The ongoing production, reproduction, and transformation of culture is not a conversation between talking heads, in which metaphysical positions are accepted or rejected wholescale. Rather, the metaphysics of a culture shifts piecemeal and through real, historical changes in relations of power, modes of subjectivity, the organization of life.” In particular, Bordo thinks that you change culture by bringing margins to the center. She says we need to “legitimate and nurture, in those institutions from which they have been excluded, marginalized ways of knowing, speaking, being….when we bring marginalized aspects of our identities (racial, gendered, ethnic, sexual) into the central arenas of culture, they are themselves transformed and transforming.”

    It seems to me that this blog’s mission to foster “critical perspectives” does just the kind of work Bordo suggests here–aggregating all kinds of ways of speaking and knowing and existing, even those which may not appear immediately useful, into the central areas of culture.

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  5. Hi! I’m Shannon! I must say that I really didn’t think that I would cause such a conversation to occur. This is my first time ever writing a blog post and anything political really. So, I wasn’t very sure on how I should have gone about it or what words I should use. I edited the grammar, but really I just spoke from my heart. I really appreciate constructive criticisms especially when I’m first learning how to write a specific kind of “paper” to a specific kind of audience. I’ve never written about politics before and that might be why I wasn’t solely on topic and the ending came off a little “me centric.” In any other paper that I’ve written you were to end with a strong conclusion. So, I ended with the strongest conclusion I could think of. I know that I won’t be arrested for this, but I wanted people to know that I felt strongly about the need for peace, so, to me it was more or less metaphorical. As a creative writing major, that’s how I express myself; I use metaphors.
    It was wonderful to see such a great conversation brought about by something I wrote. It brought me great joy and more than a little confidence booster to know that while I have things to work on there was a lot that I did really well. Thank you so much!

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