I'm trying to be empathetic to what motivates them. We think they're terrorists, but we have to remember that 96 percent of the planet is not American. And most of them look at us like an empire. When I write about us being an empire, it touches a nerve more than almost anything else I write. I get so much angry feedback.
But I don't say we're an empire. I say the world sees us as one. I say there's never been an empire that didn't have disgruntled people on its fringes looking for reasons to fight. We think, "Don't they have any decency? Why don't they just line up in formation so we can carpet bomb them?" But they're smart enough to know that's a quick prescription to being silenced in a hurry.
We shot from the bushes at the redcoats when we were fighting our war against an empire. Now they shoot from the bushes at us. It shouldn't surprise us. I'm not saying it's nice. But I try to remind Americans that Nathan Hales and Patrick Henrys and Ethan Allens are a dime a dozen on this planet. Ours were great. But there's lots of people who wish they had more than one life to give for their country. We diminish them by saying, "Oh, they're terrorists and life is cheap for them." They're passionate for their way of life. And they will give their life for what is important to their families.
As a travel writer, I get to be the provocateur, the medieval jester. I go out there and learn what it's like and come home and tell people truth to their face. Sometimes they don't like it. But it's healthy and good for our country to have a better appreciation of what motivates other people. The flip side of fear is understanding. And you gain that through travel.
Part of this reminds me of a post I did three years ago. Anyway, go read the whole Steves' interview here. It's well worth your time.