Myanmar Highlights Pettiness: Why We Must Overcome Political Differences

Sometimes I cannot begin to express my disbelief and anger over the mean-spiritedness and stupidity of people. This happens on a personal and national level, and it makes no sense.

Yesterday was trash day in my neighborhood. I live in a gorgeous old home in a great neighborhood. The house has been converted into two apartments and apparently, I am at war with my neighbors.

I just didn’t get notice of the declaration.

I think it began earlier this year when I told the landlord honestly what happened to the lawn. Neither of the people upstairs owns a car, but they do have friends that drop them off or come to visit. Technically, according to our leases, no one is allowed to park in the driveway except the people who live here. Unless someone has me blocked in though, I don’t really care.

But last winter one of the neighbor’s visitors in a big SUV turned around on the lawn in the backyard. That particular area of the yard is swamp-like and he left ruts several inches deep in the lawn. They froze that way since it was winter and the landlord saw it the next time she visited.

She asked me about the ruts and I pointed out, nicely, that I have a compact car. In my best CSI impression, I pointed out that the tire tracks were far too large for my little car. And, I told her who was responsible, even describing the vehicle.
Apparently, this caused the neighbors to declare war.

We share a set of garbage cans and in the past, whoever thought of it first, took the cans to the curb on trash day. Usually, the other one would then return the cans to their rightful location after the trash pickup. It worked this way for well over a year with no disputes.
Now however, they make an effort to make sure this doesn’t happen. Specifically, they will take one can to the curb and leave the other behind. In fact, they have gone so far as to remove my trash bag (I use white bags, they use black) from a can and then take only one can to the curb.

At first, I was annoyed and thought “Two can play this game”, but now I view this as a sad commentary on the world as a whole. They are so petty that they make an effort to do petty things.

Recently, my response has been to take my trash can out and carry them both back to the side of the house after the garbage pickup. I take the high road not because I am morally superior, but because it is just dumb to waste so much effort on being petty.
But at the same time, I see that pettiness all over the world around me.

The United States has offered aid to Myanmar to help with cyclone cleanup and recovery efforts. We have three Navy ships that could be there in hours to help rescue survivors, distribute clean water or do whatever humanitarian thing that is required.

The government of Myanmar has said “No thanks” because they fear an American military presence.

How petty is that? More than 100,000 people are presumed dead and thousands more are suffering without food and water. And you are worried about maintaining power? What about human lives?

The USA takes a lot of crap from people around the world for our pride and arrogance, but when we make a genuine effort to help, we get spit sliding off our face.

Imagine how petty and stupid we would have looked when the Mexican government sent aid via the Mexican army after the 2005 hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. For the first time in more than 100 years, we let foreign soldiers deploy on American soil because they brought humanitarian aid.

The pettiness in my own neighborhood I ignore and hope it will eventually end, but the pettiness of Myanmar hurts at a level that I cannot begin to comprehend.

Shouldn’t we put human needs above pettiness?

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