Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Barbarism Comes to the Midwest

When I chose Hanover College as a shy, bookish 18-year-old, it was mostly because of its beautiful Georgian style buildings, its stunning views of the Ohio River, the long wooded drive to the bluff where the campus clusters. Only later would I come to appreciate the school's fine teachers and midwestern modesty.

But one thing that was true all the time — and still is, I hope — is that like many small liberal arts colleges, Hanover was set apart from the world. I remember once as a prank someone set up a sign at the beginning of that long, winding drive. It said: "You are leaving reality." And you were. Hanover was a bubble where your only job was to study, make friends and learn to live on your own.

Yesterday I received an email from Hanover College. I already knew what it would say:  Abdul-Raman Kassig, formerly known as Peter, and a former student at Hanover, was executed by ISIS two days ago. His father, Ed, was at Hanover the same time I was; he lived a few doors down the hall from Tom. Peter Kassig was working to help the people of Syria when he was captured last year. He converted to Islam only recently; his name means "servant of the most merciful."

Sheltered by tall trees and cornfields, sitting serenely above the Ohio River, Hanover College seemed the last place terrorism would reach. If it's here, then it must be everywhere.


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