by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
October 15, 2002
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- More of my ideas for a column come from overhearing conversations at a coffee shop than from the Muse sitting on my shoulder.
"My wife must be getting feeble-minded," the man in the Atlanta Braves hat said. "How so?" asked the fellow next to him at the counter, wolfing down his second Krispy Kreme donut. "Last night we were talking about the President's telling us we'd better be sure the United Nations can inspect everything or we're going to give them a taste of how we feel when somebody breaks an agreement. "My wife says, 'Who's the head of Iraq? And, is Saddam Hussein there or in Afghanistan?' Holy Toledo, is that dumb or what?" I slump in my seat for fear he'll include me in the conversation. I don't know any more than his wife. I don't know where those countries are, how many people are there, what the nature of their politics would be, what faith they follow, whether they're farmers or fisherman. I just don't know. When I vote, I'm putting my trust in someone who'll act on my behalf. I don't have to know all the details. I trust my leaders. Yet, there many of us who want to know everything -- in plenty of time to upset the apple cart.. Today I saw a clipping of Kuwaiti officials visiting a Marine who was wounded. Kuwait, is that friend or foe? This is happening too fast. Can't tell the players without a score card. The more I dwell on my ignorance, the more stupid I feel. I keep waiting to hear that someone is thinking of some way to work things our before the unthinkable is the final solution. There is just so much time in a school day to teach history and geography. Is it any wonder that we skimmed the surface of the Third World countries. The Middle East was so foreign to our own culture It never appeared the twain could meet. The closest we came to hearing French history was Marie Antoinette shouting "Let 'em eat cake." Of course, we had the movies. We had the "Sheik of Araby," who creeps into the tents of veiled seductresses -- not to be confused with Osama Bin Ladin, a latter day Arab who flees into tunnels, with bloodhounds of the world snapping at his heels. There, I've proved my lack of knowledge. This is not to be confused with a lack of interest. I do want to know more but just when I think I have the bad guys nailed down, another pops up with another good guy counterpart. It used to be easier. Bad cowboys wore black hats, good cowboys wore white hats. Frenchmen wore berets, a Scotsman wore a Tam O'Shanter, an Englishman wore a cap and a Russian wore a fur hat. Americans used to wear Fedoras but this season baseball caps win out. We once could tell at a glance a person's allegiance. I would like to at all times be politically correct but unless I keep my mouth shut, I'm afraid I'll burst right in with a gaff, creating dead silence among the enlightened ones in the conversation. I was all right separating Fidel Castro in his khaki uniform and cap from Mikhail Gorbechev, with a distinct purple birthmark on his forehead. At first, both were bad guys and then one was a good guy. When President Jimmy Carter invited Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Palestinian President Arafat to Camp David to come together in peace it looked like the show as on the road. Just this week, President Carter's efforts then, and continuing through the years, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize -- but the war drums keep beating. Who are we helping to help themselves and who are we telling to back off? And what would happen if we didn't do anything? I'm not being naive; I know there is an evil empire that needs to be checked for the sake of humanity. I know it's essential Saddam Hussein be held accountable because he has trodden on the weakest in that hot, sandy part of the world. I watch the news and wonder: How can I tell an oil baron from a merchant? They all wear the same robes and astonishingly white headgear. And, that woman and baby playing in the courtyard of a jail ... is she the warden's wife? No, I'm told. She's going to be executed but not until her baby is weaned at one year. I can't even absorb that let alone comment on it. But, it's the news. All news channels and magazine articles have maps. Here is Kabul. Here is Afghanistan. Here is Saudi Arabia, here is Palestine, here is Israel, here is the Dead Sea, here is the Gaza Strip, over here is Egypt. One week we were destroying Afghanistan and doing an exemplary job of it ... justifying it all as a means to an end. It was also an end to persecution of women. Another week, we saw the pretty faces that had been hidden behind veils now leaning over books in schools that had been closed for five years. Obviously, I'm not writing to illustrate any knowledge of war and peace. I just don't have a clue. I was raised on the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It scares me that "they" might have been raised on the same rule. Now that I've figured out we're focusing on Saddam Hussein as the trouble maker, we should use the advice Jewish mothers use on squabbling kids, "Make nice, boys, make nice."