Archive for Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Shouts and Murmurs: On the other side of the world

February 12, 2003

I hate to admit it, but I have a difficult time finding Middle Eastern countries on the map.

Last summer, National Geographic sent a map of the Middle East. Since then the map has been taped to the wall by my desk, and I'm hoping -- after glancing at it enough times to locate cities and countries mentioned on the news, and to see where our servicemen are headed -- that I'll eventually know which countries are where.

Not only are the countries' locations confusing, it's bewildering when you consider their small sizes and how many people live in them.

For instance, Iraq, which takes up 168,928 square miles, is roughly the same size as California. California covers 155,959 square miles. An estimated 23.6 million people live in the entire country of Iraq; 33.8 million live in California.

Kuwait, another middle eastern country that we frequently hear about, takes up about 7,000 square miles, a paltry area compared to Kansas' robust 82,000-square-miles. And Kuwait is much more crowded than we Kansans are used to. Kuwait has an estimated population of about 2 million; Kansas, 11 times larger in size, has 2.6 million residents.

The Mirror asks readers to continue to send names and, if possible, mailing addresses of those who are serving in the military. Each week we're learning of more area people who have been called into active duty, many of them headed toward the Middle East. Please let us know who they are and where they are.

War, if it comes to that, is not a place we'd like to send anybody. The risks are great, the unknowns, such as the potential use of chemical and biological weapons, are great. We want those in our military to know that although they may be miles away, we are still with them.

As a rural resident of the county who doesn't have cable or satellite television, it's hard to find thorough national and international news coverage.

Sara Moraille, whose brother, Daniel Saunders, will soon be heading to the Middle East, said one of her best news sources is on the Internet, at www.armytimes.com. Although knowing what is going on, or thinking we know, is frightening, not knowing is worse.

In the 1960s the Tonganoxie High School students put on a play, the name of which I don't recall. But a line from the play, which I saw as a child, has stayed with me. The actors resided in a mental hospital and one of them, an elderly lady, said she never read a newspaper until it was at least 30 days old. That way, she said, by the time she read the newspaper, the sadness that was in it was over.

If only burying our heads in the sand would solve our world's problems. If only it would make hatred, violence and sadness go away. But "if only" is a weak phrase -- made up of words that convey the acceptance of helplessness.

Granted, there's not a lot we can do here on the home front.

But we can pray that war doesn't happen. We can pray that our service men and women come home safely. We can pray for world peace.

And while the hopes and prayers go on, if we choose we can learn more about the nations involved. Where are they ... who are they ... what did it take to initiate the conflict, and what, if anything, will it take to stop it.

From across the world, in Kansas it's difficult to understand.

Perhaps it always will be.

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