SFPNN Special Edition - 04/11/03 Ė TO A BOY
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--- Thanks to author, Joseph Walker, for today's Special Edition
(Please note:Todayís Special Edition was written on April 8th, 2003, just prior to the ďliberationĒ of Baghdad.)

By Joseph Walker


To the frightened boy I saw in the news photograph:

Please forgive me for writing to you this way. I know itís sort of cold and impersonal. There isnít much of a chance that you will ever see this. But itís the only way I know to try to reach you, and to tell you that . . . well, I donít even know what to tell you.

I saw your photograph on the internet this evening. You were sitting there in Baghdad with your parents Ė at least, I assume them to be your parents. With all my heart, I hope they are your parents. They look concerned and angry. I can understand that. I would be concerned and angry too if the city in which I live was being systematically destroyed.

But it is the look in your young eyes that is haunting me tonight. You canít be more than 11 Ė the same age as my son, Jon, who is sleeping safely upstairs in his bed as I write this Ė but those eyes have seen things during the past few weeks that no childís eyes ought to see. And I can see that it is wearing on you. The redness of your eyes, and the unmistakable look of fear as you peer directly into the camera Ė that has pierced me to my heart, and has forced me to try to reach out to you Ė somehow, some way.

I wish I could explain why all of this is happening to you and to your family. Then again, maybe itís just as well that we donít even go there. No matter what I say, it canít explain the near-constant pounding of the bombardment you have already endured, or the pain of loved ones lost, or the terror of not knowing from one moment to the next what the future will hold for you, your family and your country.

I guess the only thing we can say is we both live in countries where those who are in charge make certain decisions, and those decisions sometimes have a way of making life miserable for innocent people who had absolutely nothing to do with making them. So the leaders of your country have made decisions and the leaders of my country have made decisions, and the result of all those decisions is a bunch of bombs dropping on your city and changing your life forever.

There are those around the world who think that those changes will ultimately be for your good. Thatís probably sort of difficult to imagine at this point, and Iím pretty sure that thought doesnít give you much comfort. Promises of a better "someday" donít mean much when "today" is filled with the sights, sounds and smells of war. Especially when those promises are coming from the same people who are bombing the life out of you.

My guess is youíve been told that weíre pretty awful over on this side of the world. From the look in your eyes Iím thinking that would be hard to dispute. And to a certain extent, itís true. There are people here who are capable of horrifying things. There are people like that in your country, too, unfortunately. You probably already know that. But just as there are wonderful people who you know and love all around you, there are also people here who are capable of great goodness Ė caring, compassionate people who will do everything in their power to help you and your family get back on your feet once all of this is over.

Of course, I donít expect you to believe that. Not right now, anyway. But maybe you can tuck away in the back of your mind the hope that even if all of this fighting ends badly for the people who have been running your country, it may not turn out to be such a bad thing for you. Freedom Ė real freedom Ė is often painfully won. But it can be an incredible thing for those who are prepared to use it properly. I pray that it may be so for you and for your family. Thatís the only way any of this makes sense.

And thatís the only way the look in your eyes stops haunting me.

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---© Joseph Walker


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