Reflections of Shadid

Oklahoma City National Memorial

The family of two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid will accept the 2012 Reflections of Hope Award at a Thursday luncheon, an honor bestowed annually by the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.

Shadid, an Oklahoma City native who died of an asthma attack in February while on assignment in Syria, is being recognized for his life’s work covering the Middle East for such entities as The New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe.

Arguably the greatest foreign correspondent of his generation, Shadid won acclaim for his stories that revealed the humanity amid the tumultuous region of the Middle East. He spoke fluent Arabic, which aided his gifts of observation and empathy.

Shadid’s work proved dangerous.

In 2002, he was shot by a sniper while reporting at the West Bank. In March of 2011, he and three New York Times colleagues were held captive for several days and beaten by Libyan military forces.

The Reflections of Hope Award recognizes individuals whose conduct mirrors the core beliefs of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum regarding hope and the commitment to nonviolence.

The following are excerpts from an April 2011 interview Shadid did at the OKC National Memorial & Museum, where he frequently appeared to lecture and share his insights on the Middle East.

“One thing did strike me when we were being held in Libya, and that was that violence can only happen in the context where people are dehumanized or humanity is lost. For somebody to commit the crime that was committed here in Oklahoma City, people could not be seen as people. They had to be seen as something else. They had to lose their humanity.”

“What struck me in Libya is we would only be beaten … when people didn’t see us as people, we were blind folded or we couldn’t talk. Once we began talking, once we took our blindfolds off, once they saw us as people, we were actually treated far better. I think any society’s instinct for generosity and hospitality comes through once that humanity is embraced.”

“One of the legacies of violence is that it deadens us to what is happening in some ways. I spent a lot of years in Iraq, and I think people in the United States kind of lost touch with the scale of the horror … in Iraq, because we’d heard so much about it. I think in some ways the Middle East, the Arab world, because it has been so violent for so long, there is kind of a divorce between what’s actually going on and the grasp of what’s going on, just the mere kind of spectacle of violence.”

“I think this memorial is … a testament both to memory and to understanding. It’s something I’ve always felt very frustrated about. In Iraq, for instance, so many people dying and so many deaths that are forgotten … In fact, I wanted to do a long story about one death, and just remembering that
one death as a testament. I think that’s what this memorial is: a
testament. And only through remembering and understanding are we going
to be able to cope with acts like this in the future.”

“Even embracing the
grays, I think, is an important thing. It’s something that always struck
me as the terms we use, religious terms or political terms or even
words like ‘terrorism.’ They’re very visceral, very powerful terms, but
they sometimes become politicized. Even embracing … the ambiguities and
the grays of the situation, I think, helps us understand. I think that
understanding is central to ending this kind of violence in the future.”

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