By MARSHA MERCER
MEDIA GENERAL NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON -- A grieving mother -- an ordinary woman, not a political leader or a public figure -- has become a symbol of the power of words.
Her name is Marie Fatayi-Williams. She flew from her home in Nigeria to London to search for her only son, Anthony, 26, an oil executive who hasn't been seen since the July 7 suicide bombings that killed at least 52 people.
Fatayi-Williams captured the British imagination last Monday when she stood where her son is thought to have perished in the bus that exploded and, holding his picture, talked from the heart.
A friend who lives in England saw the news coverage of "Marie's speech," as it's being called, and e-mailed me. You've got to read this, she said.
Tim Collins, a retired British army colonel who became famous for an Iraq war battlefield speech, has praised Marie's speech as "one of the great speeches of our new century."
Collins wrote in the Guardian newspaper, "This kind of speech is normally the preserve of the great orators, statesmen and playwrights, of Shakespeare, Churchill or Lincoln ..."
Marie's speech hasn't gotten much attention on this side of the Atlantic. Here's a sense of what she said:
"Now New York, now Madrid, now London. There has been widespread slaughter of innocent people. There have been streams of tears, innocent tears ...
Mandela, King, Gandhi
"They are not warriors. Which cause has been served? Certainly not the cause of God, not the cause of Allah, because God Almighty only gives life and is full of mercy ... Terrorism is not the way ... Throughout history, those people who have changed the world have done so without violence ... Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, their discipline, their self-sacrifice, their conviction made people turn towards them, to follow them.
"What inspiration can senseless slaughter provide? ...
"It's time to stop and think. We cannot live in fear because we are surrounded by hatred. ... Hatred begets only hatred. It is time to stop the vicious cycle of killing. We must all stand together for our common humanity ..."
And, she ended with the piteous question: "Where is he, someone tell me, where is he?"
Days later, a suicide bomber in Baghdad killed as many as two-dozen children while they were taking candy from American soldiers, one of whom also was killed.
It was reportedly the single-highest death toll for Iraqi children since last September, when a pair of car bombs killed at least 34 children who also were waiting for candy.
Once again, the news was filled with heart-rending pictures of mothers and fathers weeping in despair.
You would like to see the world outraged when events defy decency. You would like to see government and religious leaders everywhere do as Marie appealed and "stand together for our common humanity." But there was no universal outcry.
Immune to shock
Nearly four years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans seem immune to shock and worn out by anger, more stoic than sad. Terrorism fatigue is setting in.
Washington is obsessed at the moment with whether President Bush's political guru, Karl Rove, will keep his job. Journalists judge Rove's status by where he sits in the Cabinet meeting and the way he strolls with Bush across the South Lawn to Marine One.
And yet, there are signs that the toll in Iraq is starting to be felt. The war has replaced the economy and terrorism as the nation's top concern, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported last week.
More than 1,760 American troops have given their lives in Iraq, and Iraqi civilians and police are dying at a rate of 800 a month, according to The New York Times. And the war isn't ending anytime soon.
We sadly will see more grieving mothers like Marie Fatayi-Williams.
"How much blood must be spilled?" she asked in London. "How many tears shall we cry? How many mothers' hearts must be maimed? My heart is maimed."
X Mercer is Washington bureau chief of Media General News Service. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.