The Foreign Service Journal, May 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2018 11 At State, we’re seeing people quit the department, many through retirement or the choice to seek other employment; but some who’ve left have taken the opportunity to publicly explain them- selves in letters, editorials and videos. This self-aggrandizing method of departure is unacceptable, and should not be lauded. Instead of releasing “honor-bound” statements that feed a polarized media machine (some claimed “leaks,” but still sought attention for themselves), why not praise the women and men, including our Locally Employed staff, of the mis- sions you left behind? They are the ones who continue to protect American citizens, who facilitate legitimate travel to the United States, who promote U.S. business, and explain our policy and our people in every corner of the world. You not only left them in the back bedroom; you bragged about it. Public service is not easy. It requires a steadfastness that can withstand the political winds, even when they blow at hurricane strength. An organization that cannot count on its employees to hold together in difficult times is weak. If your personal issues prevent you from continuing to serve, fine. Don’t make a spectacle of it on your way out. John Fer FSO Embassy Riga After Parkland The February massacre of 17 high school students and teachers in Park- land, Florida, was painful for any of us to contemplate. But as a former Foreign Service officer whose beloved daugh- ter, Bessie, was murdered 25 years ago in Washington, D.C., I feel particularly close to these grieving parents. With that in mind, I offer the fol- lowing 10 things I have learned that you may find unacceptable, but almost certainly will encounter: 1. The pain never goes away. Never. The death of a child is not the natural order of things; and the pain and grief are something that will help you recover, but never forget. 2. Every parent grieves in a very personal, unique way. Grieving is not a competitive sport, and your terrible trauma stands by itself—even in the face of the Holocaust, wars and pestilence. 3. Blaming America’s flawed gun laws is tempting, but largely fruitless. I tried to join the National Rifle Association to change our gun laws from inside. They would not accept my membership. Guns and hunting are as American as fathers and sons. 4. Memorials help, but are soon forgotten. Truly, candles should be lit and songs sung; vigils and graveside ser- vices held; and memorial plaques and nameplates erected. But they will all be largely forgotten—except by the parents of murdered children. 5. Yelling at politicians never hurts. Now that presidents as “Mourners in Chief” are part of America’s political/ cultural landscape, by all means give the president, Congress and the media a piece of your mind. But expect no change. 6. The death of a child often leads to a divorce of the parents. This is a sad byproduct of the murder of a child. Per- haps some relationships are strength- ened by tragedy, but statistics show otherwise. 7. A desire for revenge is a natural consequence; but, over time, it may ineluctably transform into forgiveness. If parents of murdered children suffer forever, just consider the parents of the shooter whose suffering is eternal. 8. The death penalty makes sense,