And we should change with themSteve Hammer

If there's one thing we can learn from the young year of 2005, it is that the old rules no longer apply in most instances. Times have changed and we must each learn to adapt to them. The massive crisis Asia faces as a result of the tsunami has already changed things for America.

It used to be the rule, for example, that you shouldn't call a friend's house after 10 p.m. But since a lot of the people I know don't even get up until 2 or 3 p.m., that rule has flown out the window.

The winds of change have found their way into our government's policies as well. It used to be that when the United States went to war, the Army was responsible for purchasing such things as armor for vehicles. When it was time for a soldier to go on leave, the government would pay for his or her trip home.

But now it appears as if it's the responsibility of each soldier's family to make sure their son or daughter's Humvee has the proper armor plating. And God help you if you're a soldier and you dare to ask the secretary of defense why we went to war with too few supplies.

Back in the old days, when a humanitarian crisis such as the Dec. 26 tsunami took place, the United States would take the lead in providing assistance and aid. Now we get popular former presidents on television telling us it's our job to donate to the relief efforts.

In cases such as that, though, I don't mind. It's unreasonable to expect the current American government to go in and save lives when every one of our policies are designed to take lives in the largest numbers possible.

That's like asking Tiger Woods to deliberately miss each of the 72 holes in the Masters tournament or asking Reggie Miller to intentionally miss a free throw. It just ain't gonna happen.

It's cool, though. I approve of having the former presidents act as cheerleaders for fund-raising. I figure that if I donate the change from every time I buy a 12-pack of beer, they'll eventually have to name a school after me in Sri Lanka. Or, failing that, former Presidents Bush and Clinton will come over to my apartment and hang out with me.

I'd take advantage of their special talents. I'd have Mr. Bush set up a trust fund for me and have all my enemies executed while President Clinton could show me all the cool free porn sites on the Internet. We could drink Pabst and play San Andreas together. It'd be fun.

The massive crisis Asia faces as a result of the tsunami has already changed things for America. It takes away the focus from our wars and forces at least some of our soldiers to turn their swords, almost literally, into plowshares.

If there is a silver cloud in all the suffering going on in Asia, it's that it's shifted the news media's attention away from such irrelevant things as the Scott Peterson trial and back onto our shared responsibilities.

To whom much is given, much is required. And it's now time for America to show that our power can be used to relieve suffering, not cause it. We'll need to show that we can rescue lives just as efficiently as we can snuff them out.

Our country celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King day next week. When Republicans are in charge of the government, King Day is just a celebration of white supremacy, a refutation of the changes effected by King and his associates some 40 years ago.

It's the only holiday dedicated to peace, however, and as such we should honor it more than we do. It boggles my mind that private businesses ignore the holiday and make workers show up on such a glorious holiday.

At the very least, it should be a holiday of community service, one in which people put aside their differences and their everyday concerns for 24 hours and work together to help make a difference in their communities, just as King did.

It's important to remember that the reaction of the United States government was to stop Dr. King's movement, not help it along. For years, the official policy was to intimidate, blackmail and harass King. His phones were tapped, as were his hotel suites. An FBI agent mailed an audiotape to Dr. King's wife of the reverend having sex with another woman, in order to embarrass and humiliate him more.

So in a changing climate, what is one to do? Well, in my opinion, it's up to people like us, Kerry supporters, to put up or shut up. Let's take the passion we felt last year and use it in a positive way within our own hometowns.

There are only about 1 million different ways to serve our fellow man right here at home. I'm interviewing for a volunteer position this week, in fact, and I ask everyone reading these words to do the same. We can't change the political landscape so maybe we can change ourselves and our city.

Within Marion County, let alone the rest of the world, there's plenty of suffering and misery that could be balmed by just a few hours of volunteer time. I'm volunteering for service for selfish reasons; I don't want to wake up 10 years from now and know that I didn't do everything I possibly could to help.

So, as we celebrate the life of a great American, we should back up our words of praise for Dr. King with some good works. If you're rich, fork over some money. If you're poor, help out with some time.

It is, as I've stated before, quite literally the very least we can do. King gave his life for freedom; we have hundreds of thousands of soldiers overseas being asked to do the same thing.

Let's just not sit on our asses anymore. Happy Dr. King Day.

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