this too
Monday, April 17, 2006
  A good man

Norman Kember, the British peace worker kidnapped in Iraq with Tom Fox, the American who was murdered by their captors, and two Canadian colleagues, was interviewed on the radio a couple of days ago.

The media picked up and repeated endlessly two quite predictable things he said (approximate quotations only):

Do you think you underestimated the risk of kidnap?
Yes, we probably did.

How did you feel about the SAS group that rescued you?
I was grateful. It's ironic, of course - me, a pacifist who disapproves of the army, owing my life to men from the SAS, the most violent group of all. But of course I was happy to see them and am grateful.

I wondered if I'd heard the same interview. How grossly the media fail sometimes. What lingered in my mind was the quality of the man. How he didn't try to impress or justify, but quietly told the facts, with no care for making an impression.

No passionate stating of his case, but only 'Most Iraqis are fine people. We felt so sorry for them, and wanted them to know that.'

Most strikingly, no impulse to manage his own image, to make himself the hero of a story. How many of us could resist that? How many of us would have said, ruefully, when asked about his relationship with fellow captives, 'Well, this isn't very nice, but after a while [after several weeks of days spent sitting in a row, backs to a wall, handcuffed together], I couldn't bear the Canadians' accent - I expect they felt the same about mine'.

His simplicity touched my heart. I think I will remember Norman Kember. I keep hearing his dry, undramatic voice and how it gave way, when asked about his wife, to silence and a gulping sob.
I had the great honor of hearing Terry Waite speak a few years ago. A man who knowingly walked into a situation where he was likely to be taken captive, because he hoped he could do some good. I will never forget him, his realness was deeply touching.
Bearing witness to such courage is so deeply moving, Jean. Thanks for sharing this.
I felt just the same as you, Jean. Somehow the man's simplicity and matter of fact truthfulness is hard to swallow by those in the media (and in politics) who think in slogans and sound bytes.
Your ending takes the bottom out of my stomach.
These are the things we need to know about. Thank yo for bringing it to those of us who didn't hear it.
beyond the sweetness of that post, as a canadian I think it's over the top hilarious!
Which reminds me of an interview with John and John of They Might Be Giants.
"Sometimes you just get mad at how the other person breathes."
"You are mad at how I breathe?"

And it is always the small irritations that stay with us, when the huge issues fade into the background.

Like hearing "... eh?" at the end of every phrase.
And this is how humans survive horror, by bringing it down to small problems. And why soldiers think about food they miss.

Leaving those they love grieving is too big, the worst nightmare, the most unthinkable harm.
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