Today I'm listening to a song by P.O.D
called Youth of the Nation
. It's a story of a victim of a school shooting, but it has this tone that fills me with a bittersweet
hope, with this message of youth and hope for a better future.
This morning I opened up USA Today, and I saw this picture from 1984. This young woman whose picture graced the cover of National Geographic, the Afghan lady with piercing eyes. It's their most famous picture. Eyes may be the windows to the soul, what could hers mean?
I unfolded the newspaper, and gazed intently. Her eyes were an amazing shade of blue. It was like a character from Dune. I saw traces of fear, some of sedate wonder. Her face was young, it had no wrinkles. She had part of a purdah, covering the rest of her body, leaving her face exposed for the camera, for perhaps a brief moment.
Alongside her picture was another, of an older woman. She also had piercing eyes, the same hue. The caption stated that both photos were of the same woman, as she was finally found. The original photo circulated around the globe, along with a story of, I think the Taliban's treatment of women. People wanted to interview her, but she was not found, disappeared into the crowd.
Days ago, she was rediscovered, and a newer photo of her was taken. Here she was in her twenties, but had wrinkles, and a weatherbeaten face. The haunted look in her eyes was still there. I felt like touching the page, here was someone young who has seen a lot of the problems of this world.
It's not often an image like that touches me, even though I know so little of her, or her life.
Later that night, I turned the TV on to the 10 o'clock news, settling down with a mug of milk and some cookies. Yes, crime against women is up in the city, and an elderly senile man has been missing for two days. I listened with a sense of detachment. If I pondered it for a moment, I would have muttered "That's bad" and noted it in my mind like a simple fact or statistic, no feeling needed.
What I saw next shook me deeply within. A videocamera of a young man, with his mother. He was wearing military fatigues, carrying a gun. The newscaster went on to describe the "shocking details" of a mother raising a suicide bomber. The translator dubbed over the woman, where she said "If I had 100 children, I would want them to all die for Allah." She gave the boy a kiss, while he looked into the camera with a stony-faced expression, perhaps an imperceptible smirk in the corner of his lips.
I sat up. Looked at him. I found myself inexplicably glued to his image. Dear God, I felt like shouting, he's a kid! He looks 17, my age. How can this be? He looked...normal, average, like I could see him in my school. Sorta tall and thin, with short, close-cropped hair. Here is someone my age, faced with making a life and death decision.
I would have given anything to talk to him. Get to know him, what motivates him. Maybe he had some hobby, perhaps he liked reading, or playing music. He could have a girlfriend, enjoy staying at his friend's house, hanging out and listening to a radio station together. Maybe he had plans once, to take a bus and see the city, go on a pilgrimmage, drive something.
This was a person my age. I've read about serial killers, soldiers in war who kill in cold blood. When you're young, everyone like that is older than you. You are the young innocent kid, who hasn't had the chance to make mistakes like that. Staring at the screen, i felt my own youth dissipate.
When I was seven, i used to watch the news on Somalia, and seeing children in poverty, but I was also a child watching, not fully feeling how lucky I was. This felt different, seeing something worse almost a decade later. While I would go on to college in the fall, he would be feverently praying, planning his death, and hesitating before taking that step onto the crowded street. Did he really want to do this, or would it be like The Red Badge of Courage?
For a brief instant, he and I were looking into each others eyes. I could see it better now, the look into his soul. Despondent.
I didn't even notice the tears until they dripped onto my napkin. All of a sudden I felt something deep inside welling up. I didn't cry when my aunt died, or my neighabor, but there was something in this kid's look. The thin piece of glass covering the television felt like the only thing apart from me and him. Continuing was the speech "...believes that he will go to a better place."
I haven't been religious lately, but at a nadir of emotions such as this, I ponder What would Jesus do? I humbly present the only verse of the Bible that I can memorize: "Jesus wept"
I'm still crying.
Now that I've had time to reflect on this, I realize it sounds very emo
, though I didn't aim for it to be. It was just a number of events that became a theme for the day, like God was trying to tell me something. It's just when I get in a mood like that, I feel like my hero Vash the Stampede
from the anime