My Children, Ralph Nader and the South China Sea
I basked in the warm
At the ages of six and four, my girls Zarefah and Iman were already the most kindhearted kids. They were actually going through complete and unmitigated panic, as they had just noticed the starfish which had been cast off by the waves and which were now dotting the shoreline as far as the eye could see. The children became determined to place every single one of them back in the water before they died.
But most all of them were already dead.
My kids didn’t know this. And I didn’t have the courage to break the dreadful news. I stood in silence, proud to the core, as the girls’ shaky voices urged everyone around them to help. Then I too was summoned. “Dad, what are you waiting for? Please help us before they all die.” I tried to absolve myself from what seemed to me a waste of time. But when I saw the tears in Zarefah’s eyes, and heard the fright in her voice, I joined in – as enthusiastically as the many other beachgoers-turned-environmentalists.
Four years later, in 2008, both Zarefah and Iman voted for independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. They were ten and eight, so their votes didn’t count. It was a mockup election at their elementary school in the little town of
Zarefah and Iman have always worked tirelessly for what they believed in. They once made an arrangement with a local food bank, which involved devoting part of their weekend to collecting canned food in front of the local grocery store. “Hi Daddy,” they would scream in exhilaration as I drove in to pick them up. “Look how much food we got!” Then they would point at two huge shopping carts overflowing with tuna cans and baby food.
A few months ago, Iman somberly and sorrowfully walked away from her Girl Scout troops. They had been asked to raise money to send cookies to US soldiers in
Now they are busily pondering this whole Earth Hour craze. I am sure that the lights of our house will be turned off for an hour on the last Saturday of March. The girls are unlikely to be satisfied by this, however. I can imagine Zarefah’s argument, which is likely to be seconded by Iman, or the other way around. She is likely to claim that World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) intended the hour to symbolize what ordinary people can do to save the environment; that it’s not enough for one iconic building in a city to shut off its lights while others stay lit. I am likely to agree, and they are likely to campaign among their peers – especially those who regretfully failed to vote Nader – to urge their families to also turn off the lights for an hour on March 27.
For the time being, Zarefah is busily fundraising for a cancer research facility in
No, Zarefah and Iman don’t take on lost causes. And they don’t take on easy causes either. They understand that to make a difference one has to start somewhere, and this entails action at the level of the individual - no matter how seemingly limited her or his capacity. As we drove away from the
But I am yet to break the news to them that Ralph Nader is unlikely to run for another presidential election.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: