A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


To tell you the truth, I donít know a lot about Nazmia.

In fact, Iím not even sure if Nazmia is a "she" or a "he." Our e-mail conversations havenít really had anything to do with gender. Mostly, theyíve had to do with being a parent in a world in which that task is becoming more and more complicated. Somehow, in the midst of those conversations, Iíve had the impression that Nazmia is a woman, so thatís how Iíll refer to her here (and if youíre reading this and that isnít the case, my friend, please consider it a compliment!).

Nazmia lives in the Middle East. In many ways, our lives are vastly different. But through the first two or three years of our intermittent correspondence, I was more impressed with our similarities than our differences. Being a parent is tough these days, regardless of ideology, geography or definitions of the word "football."

Lately, however, Iíve been thinking more about those differences. It started about a year ago. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I wrote an anguished column as I watched horrifying events unfold on the television set next to my desk. The words were impulsive and honest, coming directly from my gut and my heart without pausing to linger long in my mind. But they were also uninformed and naive.

Which Nazmia, to her credit, pointed out.

"I understand your rage," she wrote. "This was a horrible thing, beyond reason or comprehension. I mourn with you the tragic loss of life.

"But do you understand how it makes us feel when you and your countrymen express such outrage for one act of senseless violence, while we must live with it day after day? Few of us here have not been touched by it. Almost all of us have lost a friend or a family member. It is part of our daily life and routine.

"And so, as we look at this horror you are now experiencing, we canít help but wonder why you seem so surprised that such a thing would happen," she continued. "In much of the rest of the world, terrorism is a fact of life. You have been fortunate to not wake up each day wondering if this day would be the last for you or one of your children. The fear and uncertainty you are now feeling is what many of us in the rest of the world have been feeling for years."

She was right, of course. Although American society is relatively violent Ė particularly with regards to violent crime Ė we havenít known the unpredictable trauma of terrorism in our streets. Today we are more attuned to it Ė and more frightened by it Ė even when it takes place many miles away. At least, we should be.

Iíve only heard from Nazmia a couple of times since then. But Iíve been following with horror a series of terrorist attacks and counter-attacks in her part of the world. I fear for her safety, and for the safety of her family. I mourn the loss of innocent life. I hurt for families torn asunder by explosions of hatred and mistrust.

And I wonder why it has to be so. We live in a world filled with remarkable possibilities, including technological tools that can break through centuries-old barriers of fear by providing limitless opportunities for understanding through information and communication. This should be an age of enlightenment and an era of peace, but it canít be as long as we allow ourselves to be blinded by anger, intolerance and vengeance. We have to be peacemakers and use technology to reach out to people across the street and around the world in love and acceptance and friendship.

Even if we donít know a lot about them.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through