Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dear Gayle Williams: A Wonderful Update

A note from Radarsite: When I first contemplated writing my Dear Gayle Williams piece two thoughts went through my mind. One was that if Gayle herself were actually here she would most likely completely disagree with my interpretation of this tragedy and my characterization of Islam. Her decision to do what she did where she chose to do it would it seems to me bear this thought out. I doubt if she would have agreed with my assessment that Islam itself is the enemy.
The second reservation I had in going ahead with this article was the possibility -- no, the probability -- that someone would write in to accuse me of using this innocent woman's death as a cynical attempt to either promote Radarsite or to promote our intolerant, hate-filled, right-wing, anti-Islam agenda. These thoughts crossed my mind. But then what would be the alternative? To not write this article at all? To write this article as a somber lament for a fine woman, but somehow avoid the discussion of her killers agenda ? To qualify or tone down my treatment Islam?

When I first received the email this morning with this important comment to my article which was cross posted at Stop The ACLU I was thrilled and immediately decided to use these enlightening and poignant personal remembrances as a whole new article, a welcome update to my original letter.

Then I got to those last few paragraphs. "A selfless soul who didn’t deserve to be used as a cheap PR move that does nothing for anyone today." So, just as I had predicted, it had happened. And the accusation didn't come from some anonymous leftist commenter who had never known her, but rather from someone who knew her all her life and loved her.

However, as I read on, as I read the title of the book Mr. de Lange was writing, “Faithmentalism”, another reality began to take shape and was confirmed by this final paragraph: "What angers me most is that Islam does not preach killing, only fundamentalists interpret this for their own selfishness!
Beliefs & Doctrine of Christianity & Islamview of the other religion
• Islam is respected as a fellow monotheistic religion, but Muhammad is not seen as a true prophet
• Christians are respected as 'People of the Book,' but they have mistaken beliefs and only partial revelation
We miss you and we will never forget your smile!
Love Ed and family!"

This of course presented me with a moral dilemma. Up until those last few sentences this was a wonderful and touching personal tribute to Gayle "Tree" Williams. But those few final words turned everything upside down. It had suddenly become an indictment, not only of me for writing my letter in the first place, but an indictment of the conclusions I had reached. My first impulse was to forget about posting these comments as a new article altogether -- why post an update that undermines the whole purpose of the original article and questions my personal integrity? Why not just leave well enough alone? No one would even read these comments unless they went on STACLU.
Or, I thought, I could post the whole comment and just leave off those last few sentences. After all, I considered, wasn't the writer using the tragedy of Gayle Williams death to put forward his own agenda just as he was criticizing me for doing?

Those of you who have been following Radarsite for any period of time know how much I value honesty, especially self-honesty. I firmly believe that that inability to be honest with one's self is what is behind almost all of the major problems of this world.

There could only be one answer. These personal remembrances are so touching, so valuable, and so essential to beginning to understand who Gayle Williams was that there was no way I could justify not posting them or arbitrarily censoring them because the author disagrees with my conclusions.

So here they are in their entirety. Thank you Edwin de Lange for taking the time to write in to STACLU and share these wonderful personal memories of Gayle "Tree" Williams. - rg


Comment: Gayle “tree” Williams

A photograph flashes in my mind when I think of Gayle and 7 cousins sitting around a picnic table on the banks of the Kariba Lake ranging in height and age all discussing how many fish we each planned to catch and the art of threading a mud worm onto a hook, as parents busied themselves with making sure sunscreen and hats where all on, no-one thought that one day we would all be on different corners of the world.

As we all grew up Gayle’s Mom always spoilt me as the son she never had. It was Gayle that started horse riding at a young age in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and got me hooked on what was to become my passion and later become my service back to society by training policemen to ride. I always remember that first ride. Gayle got a pony called Bronwynn (a grey Shetland) that loved ducking under fences and leaving her jockey behind. Gayle used to hate getting this pony but she hung in and mastered the ability of ducking. How many afternoons did we get yelled at as my mad passion for horses and show jumping had all the children skipping around the garden jumping the flowers as if we where horses! At this time memories like Gayle Tamsyn (her middle name) Williams begin to flash back when she now did not like her middle name anymore and wanted to be called Gayle “tree” Williams. No matter how much her mom told her Tamsyn was a wonderful name “tree” seemed to stick!

Years later after immigrating to the UK, Gayle, Karen (her sister) and her mom came back to live with us in South Africa. I clearly remember this tall skinny athletic girl running me backwards and forwards across a tennis court with the ability to hit any ball from any man. For pocket money she came to work for my as a bar lady in the hotel night club and always had that smile that was Gayle. She was very into aerobics and went onto study in the field of sports and bio kinetics and was always competitive, latter getting into mountain biking. Years later she returned to the UK and went off to the East again (Pakistan and Afghanistan) to do charity work. There was trouble and she managed to get out safely after a long hike through the mountains and across borders with women and children in tow! I am glad her fitness paid off.

I remember after I had returned from 4 years in Africa as an expat, having escaped some close calls in different dark corners of the continent, how we had a heated debate about the existence of God and if he had turned his back on some areas. I said, “God had got fat and lazy and couldn’t see over his tummy the continents of Africa and Asia that feel into shadow under him and so ignored those areas!” – always looking for an argument, Gayle was not swayed and never took the bait, she never deemed to judge you or convert you, so claims of proselytisation are nonsense! She simply held her ground and was humble in her beliefs.

A little over 2 and bit years ago I was flying around the world on business and bumped into Gayle & her Mom in London and heard she had decided her true calling was to go back to Afghanistan and help the disabled via a charity organisation. When you speak too many of the family they will all tell you we thought she was much bigger then any of us. Often people look to the easy route with offers of – do something locally – do something in your own back yard – build a career and give a donation if you want to do some good - why go all that way when it’s not safe?

Gayle was due to return home for Christmas and I was eager to debate the book I had written about “Faithmentalism” and the holes in the catholic and Islam thinking around marketing and their use of media when it benefits them. It would have been a debate of note!Gayle sense of adventure and calling to help out a group of people whom she held no malice and no judgement of their religious choices or lifestyle but simply to offer her time, her love and her skill was the greater force in her life. A selfless soul who didn’t deserve to be used as a cheap PR move that does nothing for anyone today. I truly hope that Gayle will find peace wherever that may be and that she will not be forgotten when the press dies down. What angers me most is that Islam does not preach killing, only fundamentalists interpret this for their own selfishness!

Beliefs & Doctrine of Christianity & Islamview of the other religion
• Islam is respected as a fellow monotheistic religion, but Muhammad is not seen as a true prophet
• Christians are respected as "People of the Book," but they have mistaken beliefs and only partial revelation

We miss you and we will never forget your smile!
Love Ed and family!

Published in the Chicago Post Tribune 27 Oct 08


  1. I have refrained from commenting on your Gayle Williams pieces because I have a really violent reaction to it. I did say a few words about it at Holger Awakens, and I guess I'm warming up to it today with this one.

    Roger, I wish all free people, all people from Democracies, would just stay away from these countries that are such disrespectors of human life.

    We need to let these countries "waller" in it! For centuries, we have not yet compelled these people to rise up against their oppressors.

    I know the tenets of the Bible. I believe in witnessing, but maybe we just need to let our Maker handle this - while we stay in our free countries and pray for these people and their conditions.

    The Gayle Williams' of this world cannot beat Islam by wearing a headscarf and sipping coffee with the locals (and no, I'm not belittling her worth and what she meant to many people within and without Afghanistan - including how she touched their hearts, or their relationship with God).

    I understand that this man sees Gayle as someone who was bigger than "doing something locally." People all over the world give of themselves in extraordinary ways. Our soldiers come to mind. The misery at the hands of Islam just goes on and on, and here we have someone telling us Islam does not preach killing. This man needs a few lessons from Brigette Gabriel.

    I'll await his revised book with the forward that makes a boatload off his memories of this now famous woman.

  2. My daughter too works there for another organization. She counted Gayle as a friend as well as a wonderful caring person as they lived very near each other. My daughter too has come to love the afghan people. They are a warm kind and generous people. The problem is the minority that wield islam as a sword before the people. I would suggest it is easy to let people "waller" in their difficulties wether here or abroad but I believe we are called to more. Jesus didn't let us "Gentiles" alone to wallow in our misery.

  3. Anonymous, I said as much in my comment but the point is, as you said, the "minority" brings the violence. The people must take this violent minority down.

    America fights its gang problem everyday. There's little different other than Islamic law doesn't really work to punish these radicals. The people must do something to help themselves.

    I have no problem with loving the Afghan people. I do have a problem with "friends" who blame Americans for viewing Islam as violent.

  4. Gayle saw and endured much, but she never complained, she smiled and went on, many of us would have packed up and left, Gayles moral conviction and faith is the reason she was there, she felt a calling to be there, she was helping those forgotten, don't condemn her, understand she was doing what she wanted to do, just like we do what we want to do. Admire her courage for helping others instead of talking about it , she did it! Instead of complaining, she made it a wonderful experience for those she worked with and those she met. No one knows more than her family what a sweet tooth Gayle had, but her willpower was phenomenal, if I can be half the person Gayle was, I will be happy, and if I can have half the faith Gayle had I will be blessed. She was loved and she like all of us ahd flaws, but who doesn't? We need to learn not to hate, hard for those of us who loved and knew her, but she did not hate and if we hate it takes away from everything she was doing.

  5. To the last Anonymous -- Thank you for your insightful and loving comments about Ms. Williams.

    As strongly as I feel about this whole subject of Islam, I will not however allow myself to presume to intelligently discuss Ms. Williams or her selfless work. In my previous articles I hope I have made my feelings known on this subject.

    But about Islam itself I feel no such reluctance to voice my opinion. And if someone who actually knew her brings this subject of Islam up during their comments about Ms. Williams then I will answer them.

    "We need to learn not to hate, hard for those of us who loved and knew her, but she did not hate and if we hate it takes away from everything she was doing."

    As you can probably surmise, I disagree with you entirely. You say that "if we hate it takes away from everything she was doing." We didn't take away everything she was doing, the ruthless killers of Islam did. And they did it with the self-righteous unrepentent conviction that they were acting on the holy precepts of the Prophet. By attempting to separate out these loyal Islamists from the whole of Islam you are not, as I'm certain you are convinced, helping the world, you are just making it easier for our enemies to prevail. If people hate you enough to kill you, you simply cannot fight back with kindness and tolerance.

    I'm sorry, you seem like a lovely person, and I hate to argue with you, especially here on this particular comments thread.
    But it is precisely because of statements such as yours that we have so much difficulty accepting the cold hard realities of this terrible war we have had thrust upon us.

    I am sorry for your personal loss. And I thank you again for sharing some of your memories of Ms. Williams with us here. - rg

  6. I understand your arguements, but as gayle belived and respecting those beliefs she died serving a just and loyal God, she is now living the eternal life promised to her by God. I believe the moslems have the belief of an eye for an eye, but would we be justified killing some other persons daughter because there family killed Gayle? Yes I do not deny I would love to inflict pain and suffering on those responsible, I ahve a lot of anger for them, but is that going to change what happened to Gayle, no. My aunt has forgiven those who perpetrated this violent act, how can I not respect her and Gayles belief and not forgive them to. I may be able to grudgingly forgive but I know its not something I will forget or even put at the back of my mind. So I respect your beliefs as well, there are more sides to any story, including this one.

  7. Thank you to the last Anonymous for your honest and thoughtful comments.
    I don't think I can add anything to my previous comments, except perhaps to once again say that I am truly sorry for your loss.