An echo in my ear when the towers came down in New York was an American woman on the news, completely mystified, asking why do “they hate us so much?” The question resonated over the incident and in the press over the next few weeks and months.
The answer is of course not a simple one but having lived under the stars and stripes for a little while (I enjoyed my time) there are a few variables which contribute to the mystification. Ironically it is difficult for an American to understand but I think the very thing that can have others misunderstand them is the simple fact that so few Americans know what is going on in their neighbouring states let alone around the world. Not just an ignorance of geography but worse. It is a breathtaking lack of awareness of the people around them. Too often it is both. Like the young American military officer I met in Doha who had no idea where on the face of the earth he was. Told me he had climbed aboard his military aircraft in the dark one evening Stateside and was disgorged into a sandy furnace somewhere in the Middle East a few hours later. With that level of understanding it was hardly surprising his host country had placed a ban on having these young military types wandering around loose. Stick to Camp Doha please.
When those towers came down the press carried the spectacle and aftermath for weeks and months and the US introspection was complete. It was awful. No question. But I did want to see just what sort of coverage the China earthquake and perhaps the Burma cyclone disaster would elicit in the US press. If 3000 lost souls at the WTC versus a couple of hundred thousand are any correlation the press would cover nothing else for weeks on end. Naïve of me to expect that much but I was pleased to see the NYT cover this last weekend the China quake aftermath and the issue of poor school construction as a front page spread that got into the issues as if Camden (NJ) had been shaken (some probably wish it had been). Globalisation can’t just be about economics. It has to be about an awareness of and a compassion we have for our brothers, even if they speak another language and live on the other side of the globe. When you seen those school bags lined up like that and the grief they represent (my goodness, think of all those single child families!) you know we are all bound closer to each other than we care to think.
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