Story pick: Beyond 9/11
The news, blogosphere, Google Trends and Twitter are all aswirl with alternating rants and calls for reason about the small Florida church that threatened to burn Korans on 9/11 (and then backed down). That bit of hysteria comes close on the heels of media rants and calls for calm about building an Islamic center not far from Ground Zero in New York.
Then there was Glenn Beck's recent Washington rally, and his criticism of President Obama for holding an iftar dinner. Beck joked about having forgotten to put up his "Ramadan tree.".
And there was a recent poll showing that one in five Americans think Obama is a Muslim - he's Christian - and the hoopla surrounding the longstanding Muslim Day at Six Flags falling so close to the anniversary of the day when Islamic extremists crashed jumbo jets into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon in 2001.
And take a deep breath.
In all this noise, fear, violence and red-faced hyperbolic talk, today's story pick is far quieter. Refreshingly instructive. Hopeful, even, amidst the chaos of war and 24/7 media. Writing in his column in The New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof profiles two women who both woke up on 9/11 as expectant wives and ended that terrible day as widows and mothers of children who would never know their fathers.
Instead of collapsing into grief or rage or hatred, the two reached beyond themselves - to the more than half a million widows in Afghanistan. Their organization, Beyond the 11th, has helped more than 1,000 widows in that country with literacy classes and assistance in starting their own small businesses, like selling the eggs from their chicken flocks. Kristof writes:
...at a time when the American government reacted to the horror of 9/11 mostly with missiles and bombs, detentions and waterboardings, Ms. Retik and Ms. Quigley turned to education and poverty-alleviation projects — in the very country that had incubated a plot that had pulverized their lives.
The organization they started, Beyond the 11th, has now assisted more than 1,000 Afghan widows in starting tiny businesses. It’s an effort both to help some of the world’s neediest people and to fight back at the distrust, hatred and unemployment that sustain the Taliban....
In times of fear and darkness, we tend to suppress the better angels of our nature. Instead, these women unleashed theirs.
To round out today's emphasis on reason, check out another of Kristof's columns, this one on the history of religious intolerance in America. He writes of the 19th century anti-Catholic Know Nothing movement: "Critics warned that the pope was plotting to snatch the Mississippi Valley and secretly conspiring to overthrow American democracy. “Rome looks with wistful eye to domination of this broad land, a magnificent seat for a sovereign pontiff,” one writer cautioned."
And, as an added bonus, one of my all-time favorites, Dana Milbank's return to Founding Father George Washington and his expansive views on the role of religion in a free society.
Posted by: mordechayariely | September 10, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse
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