On Thursday in a Utah ice rink, Sarah Hughes realized the American dream, skate-scripting a new Cinderella story and establishing a lifetime of name recognition in four magical minutes. Forevermore, she will be associated with figure-skating perfection, the triumph of the underdog and Olympic gold. All this at 16.
Our spirits soared.
Also on Thursday, news media reported the murder of kidnapped American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. The Wall Street Journal reporter had been missing since Jan. 23. In the four weeks that followed, he was seen alive only by his captors. The rest of the world saw posed photos of a hostage, a gun held to his head. By Friday morning, the details of the video confirming his death were revealed. He spoke as ordered by his captives: "I am a Jew. My mother is a Jew." Then they sliced his throat and cut off his head. All this at 38.
Our spirits struggled.
Good and evil still compete, daily and eternally, for world domination and for our hearts.
Is it fair to Hughes and skating fans for her accomplishment to be diminished by an act of terror on the other side of the world? Can't we just feel good for a while?
Is it fair to Pearl that the kidnap, torture and decapitation of a young husband, a father-to-be and an innocent civilian be diminished by a mere sports competition? Shouldn't we be outraged?
As long as good and evil compete, fairness will be a victim. The events of Thursday do not force us to choose between Hughes and Pearl in the allocation of our emotions.
It is normal to have mixed feelings about polar-opposite events. Sometimes we cry tears of joy; sometimes we find peace in our pain. We can be happy for Hughes and at the same time be saddened and angry on behalf of Pearl, his parents, wife and unborn child.
The easier path is the feel-good story, thus these few extra words on Pearl's behalf.
Perhaps you never met Daniel Pearl, never read any of his stories in the Wall Street Journal and never heard of him before his kidnapping. Perhaps he never came to your neighborhood, to your town or your state. Perhaps you aren't Jewish or a journalist.
But if you cared about the innocent people who died Sept. 11 in the crashes of airliners, care, too, about Daniel Pearl. He was an American, a husband, a bass player - the guy next door, temporarily working overseas. He died in a similarly horrific way and for the same reasons as the immediate victims of 9/11.
If you mourned them, mourn him. And if you resolved then to be more patient, loving and forgiving, more involved and better informed as a way to honor those who died in September, renew your vows in memory of another who died more recently.