We Need Diplomats Who Want A More Equitable World, Not The President's Son-In-Law

We Need Diplomats Who Want A More Equitable World, Not The President's Son-In-Law

Jared and Ivanka are not elected officials, have no diplomatic experience, and certainly should not be dictating policy in the Middle East.
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Jared Kushner, a real-estate developer, and his wife, a designer and businesswomen who are now both Senior Advisors to the President, were all smiles at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. President Trump has repeatedly stated that Jared Kushner is the only person in the world that can bring peace to the Middle East. Reflecting back on this grotesque weekend in Gaza, he is the last person to bring peace in the Middle East.

Forty miles away from the new relocation of the U.S. Embassy, a massacre was happening. An estimated 58 Palestinians were killed, with the youngest victim being an eight-month-old, with approximately 2,700 injured, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

The tension and violence between Gaza and Israel is a familiar one, yet Monday was the deadliest day in Gaza since 2014. Social media was quick to point out the drastic images of Ivanka and Jared celebrating while miles away protesters were being killed. This immediately gained the attention of many politicians around the world, yet only three American politicians spoke out against the violence, most notably Senator Bernie Sanders.

The role of Ivanka and Jared, in attempting to bring "peace" was mocked on talk shows, and op-eds, and rightly so. Most notably, it was Michelle Goldberg's opinion piece for the New York Times titled "A Grotesque Spectacle in Jerusalem" that was talked about the most:

"The juxtaposition of images of dead and wounded Palestinians and Ivanka Trump smiling in Jerusalem like a Zionist Marie Antoinette tell us a lot about America’s relationship to Israel right now. It has never been closer, but within that closeness there are seeds of potential estrangement."

Opinions about Javanka's role didn't stop there: Stephen Colbert of "Late Night" characterized this all as a global mess, where "Now we’ve just got to destabilize Antarctica and we’ll have global crisis bingo,” joked Colbert.

This morning, on Wednesday, May 16th, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, walked out as soon as the Palestinian delegation spoke. Though I am only 19, I do know this about international politics: You have to listen to everyone, and give everyone an opportunity to speak. Peace will never happen if dirty politics is being played, and will definitely not happen if you are not listening to the other side.

Much of the world has condemned the killings in Gaza, yet the United States and Israel have not, and will not. It seems like every year occurrences such as these play out, but it is time for the international community to let Palestinians speak on behalf of Palestine, not Jared Kushner or Ivanka.

Jared and Ivanka are not elected officials, have no diplomatic experience, and certainly should not be dictating policy in the Middle East.

This past weekend clearly showed Jared's failure, and his disregards to the Palestinian people.

So, for the sake of world peace, let's have diplomats with the right education, and expertise, who wholeheartedly want a better, more equitable world where everyone is treated with dignity, respect, be the ones providing feedback and analysis of foreign policy, and not a real state developer who happens to be the President's son-in-law.

Cover Image Credit: thejointstaff / Flickr

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I'm A Christian And I Have A Tattoo

Stop judging me for it.
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Like most people, I turned 18 years old during the course of my senior year of high school.

I'll never forget the months prior to my birthday, though, because I spent hours making a decision that would be with me forever, the decision of where I would go to get my first tattoo and where that tattoo would go, and of course I spent a lot of time deciding on the font, the colors, and all of the other aspects of the tattoo I wanted.

Throughout this time, two things stood firm 1) the fact that I was going to get a tattoo, and 2) the six letter name that it would consist of.

Now, three years later, I'm 21 years old and I still get the occasional dirty look at church on Sunday or in line at Walmart, and more often than not this look is accompanied by the following words: “Why would you do that to your body when God says not to?"

A few weeks ago at a new church, a woman came up to me and said, “How can you consider yourself a Christian when you have that blasphemous thing on your foot?", I simply smiled at her and said: “God bless you, have a good week." I let it roll off of my back, I've spent the past three years letting it “roll off of my back"… but I think it's time that I speak up.

When I was 8 years old, I lost my sister.

She passed away, after suffering from Childhood Cancer for a great deal of my childhood. Growing up, she had always been my best friend, and going through life after she passed was hard because I felt like even though I knew she was with me, I didn't have something to visually tribute to her – a way to memorialize her.

I, being a Christian and believing in Heaven, wanted to show my sister who was looking down on me that even though she was gone – she could still walk with me every day. I wanted it for me, for her. I wanted to have that connection, for her to always be a part of who I am on the outside – just as much as she is a part of who I am on the inside.

After getting my tattoo, I faced a lot of negativity. I would have Leviticus 19:28 thrown in my face more times than I cared to mention. I would be frowned on by various friends, and even some family. I was told a few times that markings on my body would send me to hell – that was my personal favorite.

You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28

The more I heard these things, the more I wanted to scream. I didn't though. I didn't let the harsh things said about me and my choice change the love I have for the Lord, for my sister, or for the new precious memento on my left foot. I began to study my Bible more, and when I came to the verse that had been thrown in my face many times before – I came to a realization.

Reading the verses surrounding verse 28, I realized that God was speaking to the covenant people of Israel. He was warning them to stay away from the religious ways of the people surrounding them. Verse 28 wasn't directed to what we, in today's society, see as tattoos – it was meant in the context of the cultic practice of marking one's self in the realm of cultic worship.

26 "You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. 27 You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. 28 'You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. 29 'Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. 30 'You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD. 31 'Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:26–31

The more I have studied my Bible over the past few years, the more I pity those who rely on one verse in the Old Testament to judge and degrade those, like myself, who made the decision to get a tattoo for whatever reason they may have for doing so.

This is because, you see, in the New Testament it is said that believers are not bound by the laws of the Old Testament – if we were, there would be no shellfish or pork on the menus of various Christian homes. While some see tattoos as a modification of God's creation, it could also be argued that pierced ears, haircuts, braces, or even fixing a cleft lip are no different.

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."
Galatians 3:24-25

In Galatians, we read that the Old Testament law was created to lead people to Jesus. However, we know that Jesus has come and died on the cross for our sins. He has saved us, therefore we are no longer held to this law in order to have a relationship with the Lord. Our relationship with Him comes from believing that Jesus came to Earth to die on a cross for our sins, and repenting of our sins – accepting Jesus as our Savior.

I am a Christian, I have a relationship with the Lord that is stronger than it has ever been, and - I HAVE A TATTOO.

I have a beautiful memento on my left foot that reminds me that my sister walks with me through every day of my life. She walked with me down the red carpet at my senior prom, she walked with me across the stage the day I graduated from high school, and she continues to be with me throughout every important moment of my life.

My tattoo is beautiful. My tattoo reminds me that I am never alone. My tattoo is perfect.

Stop judging me for it.

Cover Image Credit: Courtney Johnson

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The Time I Had A Life Changing Conversation With A Homeless Man In An L Station

"They don't deserve our help if they won't help themselves" is a lie that needs to end
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One cold morning I wandered into a Chicago L station and stopped to talk to a homeless man. I asked him if I could get him anything what would it be and, in typical American fashion, he asked me for a coffee. I crossed the street to Dunkin and picked up a steaming hot cup and a sprinkle donut for good measure. When I walked back into the station he looked surprised to see me return. But after the shock had passed his face lit up with a smile. Then ensued the most life-changing conversation I've ever had.

It was during a mission trip in one of my favorite places in the world when I was given a very different view on life. I'd been given a morning to wander the city and talk to people. I wasn't asked to preach to the public, rather I was told to be open to a conversation. So that's how I found myself having a discussion with someone whose life is completely different than mine.

The man in the L station told me about how he was living a good life but then one day he got laid off. From there ensued the rapid progression of him losing his apartment and winding up living on the streets. He would beg for money and read the newspaper looking for job postings. But each day he had to make the choice between do I buy food or a train ticket to get to the job interview? Of course food takes precedent, so by the time he gathered enough money for the ticket and got to the listing, unfortunately, the job was already taken.

I stood there listening to this old man pour out his story and felt sad truly, but more than that I felt awed. Because through all of this the man kept saying " But I'll keep trying, and I'll keep praying." Then finally when he was done talking he said, "Well it's time for me to go now. God has blessed me so much today so I am taking the day off." He took his donut and walked right on out of the train station. Where he was going I have no idea. He just left. This man was so full of light despite what most of us would consider a horrible life.

There is an unfair stereotype surrounding homelessness in America. The stereotype that the news, the public, and even I buy into: that homeless people are merely lazy bums. Not people, no, they are eyesores and inconveniences on the route to work.

What I learned that morning in Chicago about how the other half lives, and how to still see the good in this horrible world, proves the story our culture tells us is a lie. Homeless people are not scary. They do not growl when you approach. Their situation most certainly is not cosmic revenge for something they did in the past. They are people with feelings just like us.

A year later, I went on another mission trip to Nashville. There I learned of a charity who allowed homeless individuals to use their address on job applications. See, what I had never realized, ironically having had three jobs myself, is that you have to have an address to apply for a job. Homeless people have no such address. Eventually, the businesses in Nashville discovered what this charity was doing and they blacklisted the address. Everyone who used it was immediately denied the job. We yell and scream about how poor people should just get jobs and work like the rest of us. Then we establish a system that doesn't allow them to get jobs. When did we start using hypocrisy to hide our disdain for people who we view as lesser?

Let me point out some other facts typically too uncomfortable for us to ponder on.

What happens when a woman is sleeping on the streets and the red devil comes calling? These are women who can't afford even one meal a day, in what world could they afford a pad to help control their period?

Have you ever experienced true hunger? The stomach retching, achy pains of the phantom longings for food in your belly?

What about torrential rains? Have you ever been forced to sleep outside, along with all of your belongings, soaking wet? Then even when the storm passes, not been able to peel off your sopping wet clothes and put them in the dryer?

I ask because I truly believe if you had experienced these things, or even taken the time to imagine them, that you would not be willing to say "they don't deserve our help because they won't help themselves." I do not think our humanity could take it.

This conversation, this 30 minutes with a stranger, in that random train station is the thing I think about every single day. Throughout the conversation, a smile never left his face. I have never witnessed such strength. And to think that this man, who most people would take one glance at and immediately forget, changed my life. If I hadn't had the courage to start a conversation with someone different than me I wouldn't be the person I am today.

The damaging stereotype that homeless people are dirty, lazy and worthless stops us from being open to a conversation with them.

I learned two things that fateful morning in Chicago. Yes, one was a lesson on society and how we automatically label people down on their luck. But the other was about myself, and how I personally am too quick to judge someone on their situation and not on the content of their character.

"The only measure of judging a human being is through that person's character, because character is not determined by race, religion, gender or social status. And one who recognizes this simple fact of human life behaves the same with the scientist, the janitor and the sex-worker."

― Abhijit Naskar, Human Making is Our Mission: A Treatise on Parenting

We will all face hardship, maybe we won't end up living on the streets of Chicago but it is going to get rough. Knowing the struggles we all face in some form or another, I ask you to be more sympathetic and willing to help. If this man living in an L station hasn't given up, then we most certainly shouldn't give up on him. Go out of your way, inconvenience yourself and take time to talk to other people about their paths in life. You may, dare I say, learn a little something about compassion that you didn't know before.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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