Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made a fast visit to our town on Mother's Day, May 9, to deliver the Duke Commencement address, and to sign books at the Regulator Bookshop. This is, she made a (staunchly humanist!) curtesy call to Duke and sold books. And this at a time when the flak has finally hit the fan in Iraq! Was I the only one to question her? Recall that in her reign about 5,000 children per month were being disposed of (successfully, as planned in a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency document of 1991 to destroy Iraq's water supply); two UN Commissioners of Humanitarian Affairs there in turn resigned, saying we were simply destroying an entire society. How long has it taken us to find we can be just another empire, given as we are to the exploitation, contempt, killing of our "lessers"? Buying a copy of Madam Secretary at the Regulator, I said to Mme Albright, "I guess you don't want to get into the moral issues in Iraq." She knew what I meant. She didn't.
I wanted to say, "Ah, what a magnificence there can be for you now, if you expressed your sorrow about what the people of Iraq have suffered, your own sorrow about what we did to them in the '90s." So I did. She didn't.
It seems incumbent upon the people of this part of North Carolina that Madeleine Albright be invited back to speak to the moral issues in Iraq now with audience participation. I'm not sure that Duke would think to do that; the Regulator might.
Hate begets hate
"Why are there so many intelligent people out there who just don't get it?" a friend asked.
Good question! It's clear that "intelligence" has no bearing on the ability of Americans to "get" what it is about our country's sickening, appalling behavior that prompts the wrath and enmity of so many others. And if you're not appalled, you're simply not paying attention.
Certainly the sort of analytical, synthetic intelligence we think of IQ as measuring isn't sufficient. If intelligence is relevant at all, it must be EI, emotional intelligence, the ability to empathize and sympathize with others, to relate to and put yourself in their shoes, particularly of those that your social environment invites you to loathe or hate. If you don't understand what it is like to be the victim of your enmity and hostility, you have no motivation to mitigate your hate and contempt with compassion.
Contrast that emotional understanding with the odious bumper sticker "Revenge is not an option; it's a necessity!" What a mindset!
How awful is it to be inside such a head? I wouldn't want to be there! No how, no way!
Whether of our multinational gulag of prisons or our continuing war on Iraq, the ability to comprehend the personal horror their victims experience differentiates compassionate observers from indifferent: what must it be like to be on the other side of the camera's lens? Every day that we stand by, acquiescing in atrocities committed in our name, is a day we will have to explain to our future selves, our children and grandchildren. What is it about that fact, what is it about us, that so many still don't get? How can we self-righteously continue, casually or deliberately, to impose pain and suffering needlessly on others?
John N. Cooper
Just finished your piece "With Trembling Fingers" (May 12). Beautiful. Eloquent. Articulate. And true.
My pain of late comes from not being told the truth. You can't find it anywhere. Thanks for this piece. I'll feel more adequate now, when asked why I'm so pissed off, so unsympathetically unpatriotic toward our war effort, and so unforgiving of an administration that has raped us middle-class Americans and others in various parts of the world so shamelessly.
Call this one a color correction. In a story last week, we ran a painting in reverse color. It's reprinted in its correct form in this week's arts and entertainment calendar on page 45.
Got something to say about an Independent article? Send no more than 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org; to P.O. Box 2690, Durham 27715; or fax 286-4274. Include your name, phone number and mailing address for verification; we cannot publish a letter without confirmation from the writer. We reserve the right to edit letters for length, style and clarity.