Thursday, July 28, 2005

What Was Joe Tom Easley Thinking?

The Lord preserve us from well-meaning, maudlin do-gooders fueled by sentimental fantasies of being God’s surrogate on earth. Joe Tom Easley is a retired law professor living in Miami Beach. He forged an unlikely alliance with Robert Reilly, a gay-rights activist who is an advisor for the Defense Department. The two men decided that a worthy project would be to get approval to bring a thirteen-year old Iraqi, Ayad al-Sirowiy, to the United States for medical treatment. Easley had read about Ayad who had been injured at the beginning of the Iraq war (full story in today’s NYT). A cluster bomb went off and caused tiny pieces of shrapnel to be embedded in Ayad’s face. He was blinded in one eye and the shrapnel scars caused the boys in Ayad’s hometown to call him “Mr. Gunpowder”. Ayad was ashamed and dropped out of school. It took Easley and Reilly more than a year to get approval to bring Ayad to the US. Ayad and his father have spent two weeks in the US. They arrived in New York on July 13th. Ayad has seen the Empire State building, visited the Pentagon, the US Senate, met a Senator, drank all the Pepsi he could handle, saw a dermatologist in Washington DC and the best eye doctors in Baltimore. The dream offered to Ayad was that he would get a cornea transplant restoring the vision in his blinded eye and the gunpowder tattoo would be erased. Ayad assumed he would get his old face back and would see perfectly again. This was the United States after all. And it is not unreasonable that Ayad’s father assumed that now that he had rich and powerful friends in the US, he would get a job here, move the whole family to the US and everyone would live happily ever after. This was the United States. And George W. Bush could do anything. Anyone with half a working brain can guess at the real ending of this stupid project. Anyone except Easley and Reilly. Ayad couldn’t get the cornea transplant because the optic nerve in his right eye was destroyed. Instead, the doctors gave him a contact lens that would not help his eyesight but would make his destroyed eye look normal. He lost the lens immediately. Easley and Reilly hope to send him a spare. (And lots of luck with a spare cosmetic contact lens, should it arrive and it probably won’t. Ayad lives in a mud hut with no amenities.) The laser surgery to erase the scars only lightened them. Ayad needs follow-up treatment in a country with modern medical facilities. His return to the US or any other modern country is unlikely. Ayad’s father asked to be able to work in the US and was refused. He is furious. He told an Arab television network that he was promised money and gifts. “I demand to face George W. Bush, and I have some things to say straight to him," he said. Ah but their suitcases were “stuffed with new clothes, cameras and Herbal Essence shampoo”, the NYT said. Surely that will be enough, isn’t that right, Messrs. Easley and Reilly? It has been asked, in case you are wondering: Why help this boy? There are many others who are worse off. Easley answered. “Well, I don’t know about the other boys, but I do know about Ayad.” To the people who have not been targeted for help, succor and hope by Easley and Reilly, one can only say: THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS!

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