King Hussein has died. A great man has passed.
He was a noble man and nothing expressed his nobility more than this story
I saw this in the San Francisco Chronicle 3/17/97 :
Jordan's King Humble Before Israeli Families
Hussein begs forgiveness for schoolgirl massacre
By Barton Gellman/ Washington Post
Beit Shemesh, Israel
King Hussein of Jordan, the reigning heir to the Hashemite throne and 42nd direct male descendant of the prophet Mohammed, stepped into a modest sitting room yesterday afternoon and knelt before a faded wing-back chair.
He took a gaunt-eyed Israeli accountant's hand, three days after a rogue Jordanian soldier shot down her daughter, and humbly begged forgiveness.
With that simple but enormously powerful act-reprised in each of the seven mourning homes, more than once literally on his knees-Hussein recast his nations relationship with the Jewish state for the second time in seven days.
"I looked in his face and I saw that he was ashamed, and he had tears in his eyes, and he was honest," said Miri Meiri, whose daughter Yaela, 13, was one of seven eighth-grade Israeli girls who died Thursday on a class trip to a scenic overlook on the Jordanian border. "I'm not a young girl anymore. I can see the truth in people's eyes."
After reading the above story in the news I wrote the following:
THE QUALITY AND CHARACTER OF A KING
Oh what a great and noble gesture!
What a great and noble gesture!
What a great and noble gesture!
The above selection from the newspaper stopped my mind, touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Here was a man who was a King, performing one of the most human of acts . . . he was feeling pain and responsibility for what one of his people had done to another people. He was touched with the human pain that a man who has a family feels, when a child of another family has been killed senselessly. He was begging forgiveness for his people and for himself. He was making a gesture of love. He made a terrible event, something inescapable, into a tragedy– something of the very nature of life itself.
King Hussein accomplished this because of the nobility of his act. He is a man of noble intentions, but, however noble or well intentioned he may be, he recognized he had no control over what may come from his kingdom and the world he was responsible for and yet, he felt responsible and in the feeling of his heart he changed something horrible into something noble.
And why is it a noble act? Because it is a terribly vulnerable thing to do. Because we are afraid that our apology will not be accepted. Because even on bended knee with a vulnerable heart we might be hated. Because, when we look into the eye of a person who we are asking for forgiveness, they may not forgive us. And, because we know that we must not strike out against them in that situation . . . have we not come to ask forgiveness for a terrible thing? How terrifying that is to the human heart.
There is so much to feel responsible for. We have done so much that we cannot possibly apologize to everyone we have hurt. We are sometimes given opportunities to apologize for our actions, to bend a knee, to ask forgiveness. This is our responsibility and only ours. This is our humanity calling to us. No one else can do this for us. And if we do not do this, it is as if we were unconsciously asking for some 'divine' retribution. One way or the other we shall feel the pain of this world.
Surely it is out of the lack of true human feeling that the rage and vengeance that are now sweeping over the world, arise.
Is it because millions of such terrible hurts were not demonstrably felt, because millions of hearts have not been shown to have been broken, because millions of apologies were not made from one human being to another and millions of apologies were not accepted, that a "political" situation such as the one that exists today in the Middle East has arisen. It is because people have refused to practice their humanity, to practice their sympathy, their forgiveness and their compassion. With hardened hearts people practice 'politics,' not humanity.
One could say that a 'political situation' is nothing more than millions of people unwilling to bend a knee and humble themselves, millions of people unwilling to accept the apologies of their fellow man. People unwilling to bend a knee and feel their sympathy for others, must, of necessity, continually be at war.
Politics are fundamentally situations that individual people find themselves in. The situations that are between communities, states, countries and kingdoms are all ultimately and fundamentally rooted in and expressed by the behavior, hearts and actions of individuals. We can look at King Husseins act as a 'political act', but we should also remember that it is the act of an individual; an individual who is king of a country and who comes from a long line of kings. Hussein was an individual who has bowed down and humbled himself as a king before another human individual, to an accountant and mother of a slain child.
He has done a human thing and it is great and noble. He has demonstrated in this one act the epitome of all the morality of all the religions of the Middle East. He has shown the way to peace in the Middle East in one simple gesture. He has shown the way of peace in the world in this gesture. He has fulfilled his religion in this gesture. He has shown all this in one simple gesture. He demonstrated what every parent must teach their child, through their own actions. He has shown what it is to be a king, a servant of his people and all people.
Now, he has died and left the legacy of a great man, of what it is to be a king.