The Common Good

The Red Phone

How many people wanted to be President of the United States when they were younger? I’d imagine quite a few. I certainly did, although I now realize that such an attempt would have resulted in something of a ‘birther’ controversy.

As a kid, what made me want to be in such a position of authority wasn’t necessarily the power and prestige of the President. It wasn’t the White House, or Air Force One. It wasn’t even having the authority to pardon a turkey once a year.

It was the red phone.

Butler with a red telepfone on a silver tray. Photo via Getty Images.
Butler with a red telepfone on a silver tray. Photo via Getty Images.

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You know the one. Commissioner Gordon has one for Batman. President Merkin Muffley has one in Dr. Strangelove (I’m pretty sure it’s red, even though it is shot in black and white). It was the phone you used to fix things. To call the superhero, or patch things up with an inebriated Soviet leader (what, you didn’t play Cold War when you were growing up?) That red phone was your hot line to solving whatever problem you were confronted with.

Today, I still want that red phone.

The brutality and terror that is reported daily from Syria is beyond words. Last week I read reports that 74 people have been killed in two days, including the deaths women and young children. President Assad is waging a bloody and dehumanizing war on his own citizens. Eleven months of brutality has resulted in thousands of deaths.

I want to pick up that red phone and end that.

Violence is once again increasing in Iraq, with sectarian attacks being reported regularly. The last to be reported was an attack on a Shiite funeral procession, with a death toll of 33.

I want to pick up the red phone.

There are numerous other situations that bombard my newsfeed every day. They wear me down, anger me, cause me pain, and bring me to tears.
If only there were a red phone.

The perception I had as a child was, understandably, child-like. Such complex situations cannot be resolved by a simple phone call. But even if my perception of the red phone was somewhat naïve, there is a deeper truth that I see in that image.

Nothing changes without dialogue. The act of picking up the red telephone is admittance that we can’t do everything on our own.

The crowds that daily stand up against the Assad regime in Syria have begun a dialogue, amongst themselves, their regional neighbors, and the world.

Sectarian violence in Iraq will not end until there is a dialogue between the warring groups, however much we convince ourselves that bombs and bullets work better than conversation.

I know that I don’t have that red phone.

But somebody does. Whether it is people in these countries or an outside mediator, there are people who have the authority and leverage to pick up the ‘red phone’ and begin that dialogue.
 
Jack Palmer is a communications assistant at Sojourners. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackPalmer88.

 

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