When the students at Virginia Tech were killed recently, the entire American nation paused to reflect and to mourn. The nation, as a set of individuals, took a moment to consider the grief of their families and the terror each student must have felt when they stared at Seung-Hui Cho just as he shot them. Premature death of young people is a universal point of human sorrow. The outpouring of grief for these students; however, was particularly intense because they are Americans. It was a shared nationality and sense of connection that intensified our instinctive human reaction to grieve. It hurt more and we grieved harder because they were Americans.
If I were Arab today I would be unconscious with grief. If the Arab world had a collective spirit-voice to speak to the heavens, it would be screaming in agony. The number of individual voices of family members and friends everyday yelling in pain at the death of a loved one might be too much to bear. If I were Arab, the news clip images of an Arab woman running and screaming with the dead body of her child in her arms would make me consider my own mother running with my dead body in her arms. That kind of pain is unconscionable. If I were from
My personal anguish would be compounded by the overwhelming sense of injustice and the staggering imbalance of power. The ability of the
If I really were Arab, I might know more about instinct and the long cycles of history. I might be better able to understand the instinct towards hope embedded in me as a result of being part of a people whose civilization dates back several millennia. With that understanding, a 60 or 80 year convulsion of pain may be tempered by the length and breadth of my identity. Maybe.