Ive been writing this column for nearly fifteen years and in that time Ive received a number of interesting letters and e-mailseverything from borderline love notes to legitimate hate mail. Occasionally I may evoke disdain from a reader because of an opinion on a particular film, but more often than not I get a compliment because one of my musings struck a chord with them. Being able to connect with people through writing is a particularly rewarding occupation. I consider myself lucky that I live in a country where I can freely express my thoughts and opinions without fear or retribution. Unfortunately this is not the case in many parts of the world.
Voicing opinions could be a springboard to government reprisals or an early death in some countries. The idea of putting words onto paper and then being in fear for your life seems almost surreal in a place like Vermont. People here are certainly opinionated and full of social objections, but a local jihad remains highly unlikely.
Not long ago I read about a low-level Iraqi politician who was murdered by a terrorist group for his opinions on the direction of his country. The man was intent on giving everyone an equal voice. Unfortunately his voice was silenced before he could help effect any substantial changes.
Terrorism is a heinous act (pull out your thesauri and slap any number of defeatist adjectives in place of heinous and it still doesnt fully define the negative aspects of the word). But of all the ways that terrorism manifests itself, the suicide bomber remains the most disturbing.
Its hard for people in this country to understand the psyche of the suicide bomber. What makes an individual strap an explosive to their body, then walk into a crowded marketplace to kill innocent civilians? Do they really feel that on some level this is a justifiable act? Ive heard about the abundance of available virgins and glory of martyrdom, but seriously, doesnt the brain override these irrational concepts and focus on the reality of the act itself: The senseless murder of children, mothers, fathers, anyone within range of their hateful weapon?