A lot of very insightful people are posting on the ugliness occurring right now in the Middle East, and rightly so.
It's all so abhorrent. What I sometimes feel is being lost, however, is the humanity of the average person living through this terror, a sense of who these Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis, Afghanis really are.
In 1979, I was part of a 4 1/2-month overland bus trip from England to India and back. India, where I spent almost two months, was an incredible, magical place, but that's for another blog.
The rest of the time, we couple of hundred Canadians, Aussies, Brits, Scots, Irish, Filipinos and others from countries with close ties to the Commonwealth were motoring through Europe, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan, among other countries.
The Shah of Iran, whom I met, was still the Shah, surrounded by his Savak secret police. The then-Soviets had not invaded Afghanistan. Iraq was under the iron fist of Sadam Hussein. Syria was what Syria still is.
I followed with obvious interest in these subsequent years the downfall of the Shah when Ayatollah Homeini took over Iran shortly after we left it for the final time, and the ensuing kidnapping of American hostages.
I watched when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, an untamed frontier, and look at who's there now and that hopeless situation, with Osama Bin Laden still apparently hiding out in the hills.
Of course I have seen the Gulf War and Gulf War 2 and now Hussein is a broken and beaten man but his country is an absolute mess and the U.S. is even more in a mess for being there.
And what stirs me the most about all of these events, what I most think of when I imagine the carnage, is the fate of some of the many beautiful citizens of Afghanistan, of Iran, of Iraq, of Syria that I met along the way.
The store owner in Kabul who pulled a knife on me when I used the word f*** as we haggled over the price of a lambs' wool sweater, telling me later he learned the word from the American "hippies" living in an area called "Chicken Street."
The young Iranian in Tehran who sauntered up to me and befriended me, brought me to meet his parents for dinner, his only request that I tell him as much as I could about North America.
The kind taxi driver in Baghdad who drove two of us around for three hours, explaining the customs and why women wore veils, etc., and at the end, did not charge us for his time or his gas.
The scores of lively people in the bazaars, the lovely women in Mashed and Kerman and Tehran dressed to the nines in their western garb as the Shah tried to modernize the nation, in stark contrast to Iraq and the veils and black clothing.
The beauty of gorgeous-looking, bright-eyed kids introducing themselves without fear and volunteering to take us here or there.
I tried Google Images to find pictures of some of these kinds of beautiful faces. Except for a tiny few, all the images are of bloodied humans crying or looking devastated at the devastation around them.
I just want to make clear that beyond the theology, beyond the bombing and the politicians and the CNN interviews and analysts and the military strategy, those people on the other side of the world are just like you and I.