This Week in Citizenship
Snipped from headlines and experience, the segments in This Week in Citizenship celebrate the real-world practice of good citizenship.
She spoke when she did not have to, and they adopted her for giving word to their highest selves. Last Tuesday, reports The New York Times, gunmen stormed a bus full of schoolchildren in Pakistan to gun down Malala Yousafzaia, a fourteen-year-old girl who dared to speak publicly “about her passion for education.” Her father “ran one of the last schools to defy Taliban orders to end female education” until he was forced to flee. Still she spoke. And in the wake of the shooting, as she lies in critical condition in the hospital, “Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf urged his countrymen to battle the mind-set behind such attacks. ‘She is our daughter,’ he said.” Said the Interior Minister, “Malala is our pride. She became an icon for the country.” The Times’ first follow-up article reported that “[e]ven Jamaat ud Dawa, the charity wing of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which follows a different strain of Islam from the Taliban, condemned the attack. ‘Shameful, despicable, barbaric attempt,’ read a message on the group’s official Twitter feed. “Curse b upon assassins and perpetrators.’” Schools are closed in protest, newspapers condemn violent extremism, and Studs Terkel seems to have been proven right: Hope dies last.
(And the articles keep rolling in. The Times’ last update ran under the headline, “Global Outpouring to Help Pakistani Schoolgirl,” and included details on international offers to cover Malala’s airfare to, and treatment at, the world’s best trauma hospitals. Maybe we all believe in some of the same things, after all.)
He reached out; looked in earnest; and forgave. The Times also tells the story of Eric Lomax, who died peacefully on Monday at age 93. Mr. Lomax was among those members of the Scottish Royal Corps of Signals who surrendered to the Japanese in 1942 and were forced by their captors to build the Burma Railway in Thailand — travails which became the subject of the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai. While a prisoner, Mr. Lomax was beaten and tortured. After the war, he taught, delivered mail, and lectured even as “his anger and bitterness” over his imprisonment, and in particular at the one jailer who abused him worse than all the others, “created problems in his personal life.” But after his retirement, in 1993, he read an article about a Japanese man “devastated by guilt over his treatment of one particular British soldier [during the war]. Mr. Lomax realized that he was that soldier”:
“When we met, Nagase greeted me with a formal bow,” Mr. Lomax said on the Web site of the Forgiveness Project, a British group that seeks to bring together victims and perpetrators of crimes. “I took his hand and said in Japanese, ‘Good morning, Mr. Nagase, how are you?’ He was trembling and crying, and he said over and over again: ‘I am so sorry, so very sorry.’ ”
Mr. Lomax found that Nagase had “experienced great personal regret,” and had encountered “the same psychological and career problems that I have.” He never forgave Japan, but he forgave Mr. Nagase. The two became lifelong friends.
No man left behind — and they’re all our men. The Today Show interviews 11-year-old Ben Palz, who was midway through a children’s marathon when his prosthetic leg gave way. PFC Matthew Morgan, USMC had spent the day on the course with twenty fellow Marines, offering encouragement to the kids, when he saw young Palz on the side of the track. “By the time I got to him,” says Morgan, “he was already on his foot. He was reattaching the prosthetic, or trying to. And when I asked him, ‘Do you need help?’, he looked at me and said, ‘No, I’m gonna finish the race.’” But when Palz figured out that the foot wouldn’t reattach, the young man accepted a lift from PFC Morgan. They finished the race together. Semper fi, gentlemen.
Preaching The Gospel of Kindness. Beginning on October 20th, Bob Vortuba and his faithful dog Bogart will take to the highways to Ring Our Country with Kindness. After three students were killed at a high school near his home in Ohio, and three other young adults took their own lives, Bob resolved that, of all the good he could do in the world, this would be his fight. The ride, in a bus Bob decorated himself, will cover 9,000 overland miles within the United States, and is dedicated to raising awareness for “those who are hurting,” and to help them realize “that life will get better, much better.” On its side, among many other inscriptions, the bus reads:
If You Are Hurting, Hang On to Your Life With All Your Might
Someone Will Need You In A Very Big Way At Some Point
You Need To Be Here For Them
Be Brave And Find A Way To Continue Your Important Life
You Will Find Incredible Love By Helping Others
Accosted beside his travel-ready bus, Bob told this writer, “My goodness, you’re so young. You realize you actually have time to do a million acts of kindness in this life? Better get moving.”
He’s right. We’ve got all the time in the world. Better get moving.
Have something you’d like to see in the next installment of “This Week in Citizenship”? Send it to Jon at (jon at citizenthink dot net).