Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Were Confederate soldiers terrorists?

This time of year in Israel is a pretty special one, starting about a month ago with Holocaust Remembrance Day, later Memorial Day (for fallen soldiers), followed by Independence Day and today Jerusalem Day (celebrating its reunification in '67). I've been mulling something over in my head for a while and I just need to write it out, hopefully to have it make sense in my own mind (if it does for you, well then, that's good but bear with me).

There's a commonly expressed phrase that says "One person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter". While I understand the sentiment behind the phrase, I feel it is completely misguided. The author, whomever they are, and anyone who espouses this idea are trying to make everything politically correct - "let's not offend anyone as they are entitled to their beliefs, just as you are too". This attitude, while I totally agree with it in principle, in actuality is nothing but the removal of the moral fiber from our society.

CNN recently published a
column (who knew they had columnists?) which is entitled: Were Confederate Soldiers Terrorists?. The author writes:
In criticizing me for saying that celebrating the Confederates was akin to honoring Nazi soldiers for killing of Jews during the Holocaust, Rob Wagner said, "I am simply defending the honor and dignity of men who were given no choice other than to fight, some as young as thirteen."
Sherry Callahan said that supporting the Confederacy is "our history. Not hate; it's about heritage and history."
Javier Ramirez called slavery evil, but prefaced his remarks by saying that "Confederate soldiers were never seen as terrorists by [President Abraham] Lincoln or U.S. generals on the battlefield. They were accorded POW status, they were never tried for war crimes. Not once did Confederate soldiers do any damage to civilians or their property in their invasion of the north. The same is not true of Union soldiers."
Realskirkland sent me a Tweet saying, "Slavery is appalling, but was not the only reason for the CW [Civil War]. Those men, while misguided on some fronts stood up for what they felt was right. They embodied that American ideal that the states have a right to govern themselves. THAT is what a confederate soldier stood for."
If you take all of these comments,
don't they sound eerily similar to what we hear today from Muslim extremists who have pledged their lives to defend the honor of Allah and to defeat the infidels in the West?
Growing up in the North my disposition is to be angry at the Confederacy, slavery, and causing the death of thousands of Americans; but the author's desire to paint Muslim's as terrorists is forcing him to call Confederate Soldiers terrorists as well. As if there's no distinction to be drawn between them.

So, what makes one a terrorist? The causing of terror obviously. But it's more than that too - being scared of a soldier doesn't make the soldier a terrorist. The soldier's job is to win, to defeat the enemy - nothing more, nothing less - if he could achieve that without killing he would. The terrorists job is not to win, but to cause the destruction of the enemy through death and destruction and to cause the enemy to lose the internal strength to carry on due to the fear that they have caused.

The author of the quote and the columnist have it all wrong. Fighting for a cause, even one that you disagree with doesn't make the enemy a terrorist, they're allowed to believe what they do. It's theactions which make them wrong - not the beliefs behind the action. I would never call a German (Nazi) soldier a terrorist unless they were active in terrorism - the SS on the other hand might be, but the regular soldier - no, not a chance.

While not specifically on the same topic there's a line out of my favorite episode from my favorite TV show ever (The West Wing, s3e0, "Isaac and Ishmael"):
BOY 1:
Well, don't you consider...I mean, I know they're our enemy, but don't you consider there's something noble about being a martyr?

[pauses, considers the question] A martyr would rather suffer death at the hands of an oppressor than renounce his beliefs. Killing yourself and innocent people to make a point is sick, twisted, brutal, dumb-ass murder. And let me leave you with this thought before I go searching for the apples that were rightfully mine: we don't need martyrs right now. We need heroes. A hero would die for his country but he'd much rather live for it... It was good meeting you all.
There are people in our history that we call martyrs yet place them on the pedestal of history. It's not that these people shouldn't be honored for what they did, but rather they should be seen as heroes too. If the person dies because they want to make a point in doing so, that would seem to be wrong in my book - if, however, they're willing to die but would rather live - then you're a hero in my book.

I don't know if I've made any sense to any of you, but this is my blog so I can live with that, but what I do know is that soldiers are not inherently terrorists no matter how evil their cause. What we're celebrating in Israel during this time, isn't the "luck" that our fathers, brothers, sons, daughters, etc. were able to give their lives to "the cause"; rather we are remembering them because while they were willing to die for their country they'd rather be here now alive with us.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Why good HR practices in Nonprofits are so important

Last Semester I took a course on Human Resource Practices for nonprofits. The course did not focus on hiring, firing, and evaluation practices, that was just one lesson; it did not focus on employee manuals and benefits packages, that was also just one lesson; what the course focused on was the need to create an interdisciplinary team among your staff and volunteers to provide a better service for your stakeholders (the people you serve). Throughout the course, students expresses frustration; frustration for not receiving an education in what they saw as "needed" for someone to hire us. Though we saw the team building as important, we were not convinced our current or potential employers would also see it this way. No matter what the employers think, though, I have discovered that team building is one of the most important things any organization could have in in Human Resource Management.

Nonprofit workers, especially in smaller nonprofits, often see their sole purpose as getting their job done; fulfilling all the objectives and goals listed on their job description. If their job is build a program, they put everything they have into building it. If their job is to oversee the finances, they make sure they are doing this to the very best of their ability. Everyone knows a nonprofit worker has to go above and beyond, however are they actually going above and beyond their job.

Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to observe an organization up close: an educational institute. This organization, for the most part, employs teachers, Rabbis, a CFO and an office manager. Like most nonprofit organizations, it does not employ anyone with experience in managing human resources, or anyone even without the experience to at least try. The result of this situation is a group of educators who are so passionate about education, who have such great ideas of how to revolutionize the way they teach their students, but who can not actually make this revolution happen. In this organization, each person is on his or her own to "try out their ideas" and everyone is trying something different. This lack in a unified method for educating results in the students not receiving the message the school intends to send. The students often play "good cop vs. bad cop" with their teachers; the students seemed to have learned that pitting two disparate views against each other is acceptable; and the students don't seem to have learned how to respect the teachers, what the teachers have to teach, or even how to respect themselves. Had this school brought the teachers together, as a team, created an environment where each teacher could contribute his or her expertise, and together developed a plan for educating their students to get across their message, the school may have actually had a positive affect on its students.

The management of human resources is not only about the management of benefits and salary packages or overseeing the hiring and firing processes. The management of human resources is about managing the human capital you have in your organization, the value that each person has to offer, and ensuring that the individuals who work so hard for your cause, are working together for the greater cause. As with anything, you are greater then the sum of your parts when all the parts work together.

Shabbat Shalom!