Even as the people of Afghanistan contemplate
future, it might be a good time for us to take
stock of ourselves, who we are and what we

We seem to believe that if the inhabitants of the
Muslim communities only got to know us better, and
what we stand for, that they would understand us
embrace us.
That may be so, but it can cut both ways.

How much do we know about the rest of the world
general, and that area in particular, that we didn’t
until after September 11? How many of us
knew where
these countries are, or really cared, in
spite of the fact
that, as we have seen, we ignore
them to our detriment
and sorrow?

We claim to be educated but had never heard of
Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan until
terrible crisis occurred. We learn about Scotland
“Braveheart”, about Rome from “The
about Greece from “Zorba”, and we
assume familiarity.

So why do we study Geography in our schools if
cannot pinpoint half the world on a map? Why
History if it is only our own and gives no
insight into
the mindset of those with whom we share
the planet?

The print media report regularly on happenings
elsewhere, but the man in the street today gets most
his information from television news channels, and
order to make any situation easier for us to
understand, they often bring things down to the
lowest common denominator.
Perhaps, if we understood others a little more, we
would embrace them, too.

Of course, I am not referring to the terrorists
them. There is not a people on God’s earth
openly advocates terrorism as a matter of
policy. I
refer to the ordinary person, in any country,

But we, like it or not, have our own terrorists, who
as capable of doing terrible evil as those abroad.
Ask any victim of the IRA in Ireland, the ETA in
Spain, the Tim McVeigh in the USA.

Evil does not always wear a turban. Sometimes it
wears a white sheet and a pointed hood.
But it is always the result of ignorance, of fear of
unknown, and we are as susceptible as anyone
else. It is
easy to ridicule and condemn what we
understand, and all sides are equally guilty of

We wonder at the mentality of those who are so
narrow in
their beliefs, and so terribly paranoid
about them that
they shun day-to-day discourse
with the ordinary man
and hide themselves away in
caves to avoid serious contact
with those who do
not agree with their beliefs. Who arm
themselves to
the teeth against whatever perceived enemy may

intrude on their lifestyle.

And yet we too have our paranoid groups, heavily
and hiding out in mountain enclaves,
searching the sky for black helicopters
and waiting for
an apocalypse that never comes.

They have their suicide bombers, their people
willing to
make the ultimate sacrifice for their often
beliefs, but so do we.  Remember
Jonestown, Heaven’s
Gate, et al?

It is said that “a cause is not necessarily true, just
a man is prepared to die for it.”*

We condemn those who use fundamentalism as an
for inciting hatred, but we have our
fundamentalists too.

We have preachers who are as intolerant as any to
found elsewhere; who preach hate and
divisiveness as so many
fundamentalists do; and
always in the name of God.

We bemoan the tribalism that generates so much
while we ourselves have our own ethnic
divisions, our own
biases and prejudices, our own
epithets. We paint in broad
strokes and it is not
always a pretty picture.

And yet, with all our faults, we are basically good
people, trying our best in a less than perfect world
to do the right thing. But, in order to be equitable,
must be fair, and honest with ourselves.

We do not have a patent on Morality, only the
strength that comes from being a powerful country
among many weaker ones, and the courage to hold
our hand to our fellow man, regardless of how
he may be from ourselves, and the
willingness to
encourage him to his own greatness,
in his own way.

To the far-off people in far-off places, let us lead
our example. We are all citizens of one globe, and
it is
the very diversity of our peoples that enriches
us and
gives us dignity.

We offer with pride, but not hubris, our best and
brightest minds and our warmest hearts to help the
suffering people of Afghanistan take the first steps
along a path that we have long since trodden, and as
we look back at what we have achieved let us also
forward with confidence to a time of peace and
prosperity, for all God’s creatures.

For them, and for ourselves.


*  Nietsche


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