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December 20, 2006

Bring a Smile to Your Face
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Just for a second, forget the President's end-of-the-year news conference and all the other awfulness, and let me suggest a few foreign policy-related things do can do to bring a holiday smile to your face, after you've followed Shadi's suggestion for watching The Devil Wears Prada and pondering the seductions of power:

1.  Go drive a (US-built) hybrid car.  We acquired a hybrid Saturn VUE last week, and I have to confess that I'm getting a lot more psychic benefit from driving it than I ever expected (which almost makes up for my preference for a zippy little standard transmission sedan).  "Up yours, Ahmedinajad," I mutter whenever the little green "ECO" light comes on.  "Take that, Ted Stevens.  Who needs your drilling in ANWAR?"  And I'm also sending a message to my Big Three auto-exec neighbors here in southeast Michigan.  Build some more of these things, darn it -- how about a sedan, or even a station wagon?  Give my other neighbors the autoworkers some work, compete with the Japanese hybrids AND help us climb out of the oil mess.

2.  Give some money to a cause that works.  If you need more encouragement, read Peter Singer's article about how little each of the top 10 percent of US income-earners would need to give to meet the Millennium Development Goals, for example.  If you have kids, or remember the Del Fuegos fondly, or want to see Walter Cronkite hug a sheep, check out the Heifer Project's holiday site. Feel good about your fellow human beings, and lessen the pain of what your tax dollars are being wasted on.

My promised update: 

A kid named Akash Mehta is raising money to help open a girls' school in Herat, Afghanistan.  You can read about him and help him out here.  Akash has already gotten his first challenge grant, from the Unemployed Philosphers Guild, the entrepreneurs who brought you Bush National Security Team puppets, "Freudian Slip" message pads and other novelties you may not be able to do without.  Why is Akash doing this?

The first time I thought of this was when I was sitting in the kitchen trying to help my mom wash dishes. But I found that I wasn't good at dishwashing. So I sat down and asked my mom what use kids were to the world. She told me that we were learning how to be good, and we can help the world when we grow up. Plus, when we are kids we make joy for grownups. But I said I want to do something now that makes the world a better place, and I am too young to do that.

Even if I am only 8 years old, I am thinking about how lucky I am to be rich compared to these kids. You might think that these are disturbing thoughts for a young child and I sort of agree, but the only way that disturbing thoughts can go away from children's minds is if you help.   Once a few people do this, children's disturbing thoughts can be replaced by thoughts of how the world is slowly becoming a better place and how one day is better than the last.

Shoot, send this kid some money.

Also, one thing NOT to do is to give your old clothes to one of those places (including the oh-so convenient drop boxes) that promise to send them to Africa.  Why?  Most end up re-sold by entrepreneurs for profit, and drive the local fabric and garment industries out of business, because who can compete when the raw material is free?  ABC News has a report on this, but don't let it drive you to frustrated despair.  Sell or give your old clothes to a thrift shop or find someplace that recycles them, then take the tax break and send that to a group working to empower folks in poor countries.



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I tried the link and it wasn't working. You can find out more about the project via this link:

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