The hardest and best lessons we can learn about ourselves arrive when we can look at others and see the ways in which we are the same, rather than the ways in which we are different.
That concept may be unusually hard to grasp when our teachers are the Taliban and al Queda forces now struggling to keep their grip on Afghanistan and the world-terrorist network they created.
What in the world could we possibly have in common with these groups of blood-famished animals? That question becomes even harder to answer when you read a White House report, released yesterday, that lists atrocities committed by the two groups since September, 1996, when the Taliban captured Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul, castrated the country's president, and killed and tortured his brother.
Other alleged atrocities include the 1998 massacre of 600 Uzbek villagers; the 1998 capture of Mazar-e Sharif, which included, according to Human Rights watch, the execution of scores of men and boys and the rape of women and girls; and a 2001 massacre in Yakaolang, which included the executions of at least 170 men.
The list covers deeds through the past week, when eight boys were killed because they laughed at soldiers, an entire family was burned alive, and 100 Afghan Taliban members were slain by foreign Taliban and hung from lamp posts to warn would-be defectors.
What could all of us possibly have in common with these people? One answer was provided two days ago by a foreign Taliban soldier who explained the murders of his fellow Muslims and, unintentionally, the attacks on America thusly: "They aren't pure enough."
No, it is not the routine of the average American to kill those we deem less pure than ourselves. But it is most definitely our habit to push them away, to maintain lines of separation, deprive them of rights we feel we deserve, label them as the enemy, and cheer their defeats ... all because we've taken it upon ourselves to judge them not "pure enough."
Although it may manifest itself differently on this side of the hemisphere, the disease is the same.