Monday, November 14, 2005

Real Americans

As I told you yesterday, Bush, I has fully intended to take the day off today, but I was moved to make this entry by the story on "60 Minutes" last night of thirteen young paramedics from New York who had taken it on themselves to respond to the need for their skills in the earthquake-devastated mountains of Pakistan and Kashmir. They went there unbidden and unpaid, simply because they felt the call to be of service, relieving some small part of the suffering of their fellow human beings. Ignoring the personal risks, the communication problems, the dangers of disease and anti-American anger from the Muslim population, they were busy doing what they knew best: healing the hundreds of sick and injured, who had no other access to medical aid in these remote areas, and who had been neglected, thus far, by international rescue efforts.

The devastation caused by the earthquake was incredible, Bush, seen from the comfort of our living room. They say that some ninety thousand people have been accounted dead to date, along with countless thousands badly injured. And these thirteen men had simply rolled up their sleeves and gone to work with whatever supplies they could lay their hands on. The people they were there to help responded, as you would expect, with gratitude--and with a new respect for Americans. One told the tale of a man, unable to communicate in English, who came to him with insistent signs and gestures to indicate that both of them had fingers, both had hands, and wrists, and arms--that both were human, and the same.

These are the real Americans, Bush. They are practical, competent, resourceful, and compassionate. They come without swagger and self-importance, without the need to assert superior knowledge and power. They come with an abundance of love and care for those less fortunate them themselves, and with skills to serve. They bring not guns and mortars, but bandages, splints, and hypodermic needles. And this was Bin Laden territory, Bush. They were not there to hector the people about freedom and democracy, or show them the error of their traditional Muslim ways. They were just there to help. And heal. I suspect, though, that these thirteen New Yorkers taught more about America and Americans--and more about democracy--than everything that you and your people have done in that part of the world since your election.

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