Writing to Omar Khadr
“Atticus -” said Jem bleakly. He turned in the doorway. “What, son?” “How could they do it? How could they?” “I don’t know but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it – seems that only children weep.”
I wanted to write to you for a very long time but I found out you were having difficulty in reading. I did not want the letters to be read aloud to you by someone else.
For a very long time, I did not know you except through what I read about you. They didn’t treat you well and what hit home was that most newspapers didn’t report on you with kindness or even fairness.
They didn’t treat you well. Your eyesight was vanishing, and they wouldn’t get someone to look at it. They hurt you, mentally and physically, so that even your ownself became a stranger to you.
For a long time I wondered when was the last time you looked in the mirror. I saw a movie where a detainee handed over a mirror to the soldier who stood on the other side of the door. He didn’t hurt himself with it, as the soldier had thought he might. Nor did he hurt the soldier – she was safe, unlike what we the audience may have predicted.
In all these years, you allowed us to mirror you. You looked like a kindred spirit. But there was more to you which we didn’t know – they made it very difficult for us to see you or talk to you. They lied to us about what they did to you. Years later, they would be forced to release documents about what they did in the places they housed you and so many others. They summarised their area of expertise selectively and we were astounded even though what we underwent wasn’t surprise. It was the shock that our worst fears had been confirmed and backed up with people from the other side of of the door. It was a relief, perhaps, knowing that people would find the proof they needed to stand with you, with us, to cry out at what they did to you. But this is not about them. This is not about what they did to you.
That alone is not who you are.
You are more than what they did to you. Which is why I will keep writing about you, if not for you. So that someday, you will find these words and you may teach us of the truth in that which I’ve tried to mirror of you.