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Letter: A lesson from Lincoln

As an American who has followed the recent history of your country, I applaud

your people's heroic efforts to rebuild Cambodia.

Not everyone will

always agree on how that should be done, or who should be in charge of doing it.

But unless there is support for the government, anarchy will always be a threat.

You are to be congratulated for your recent elections, and though there still

may be difficult times I believe you will be successful.

Even though it

is deeply painful for many, the effort to repatriate all Khmer people is a noble

one in my opinion. Much patience and forgiveness will be required. Some will

never be able to forgive. But it is for the next generation that you are

building, when those who cannot forgive are gone.

It is your children and

their children whom you are doing this for, whom you are giving a real chance at

success. Layers of bitterness will fall away with each generation. Revenge will

no longer be a way of life. And that will be because of your efforts

now.

We Americans - of all people - should understand. Our country was

not even 100 years old when it was shattered by a bitter Civil War in the 1860s.

Brother literally fought against brother.

Our country continued to exist

only because "unity" was militarily forced upon those who attempted to

deconstruct America.

It was painful to President Lincoln to attack

America's own citizens. It is said that he had long periods of deep depression

during the four-year civil war. He was despised by millions of Americans. He

knew that his life was in constant danger. Indeed, he was assassinated by those

who refused to accept reconstruction at the end of the war.

But the man

who was once hated by nearly half of the people in our country is today regarded

as perhaps our finest President, because of his firm but compassionate

leadership in a horrifying time.

Unfortunately, most Americans understand

very little about the situation in Cambodia. We tend to be self-absorbed in our

prosperity, and become interested in specific foreign issues only when the

government and press make it effortless for us to be interested (for example,

the massive publicity following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq.)

However, we are also historically a compassionate people. I believe that

if most Americans knew more about the current state of affairs in Cambodia, they

would encourage our leaders to give your country more support in your rebuilding

efforts.

One "secret" about American people is that we tend to cheer for

the underdog. We truly like to see someone "beat the odds" and succeed in spite

of great difficulties or a superior opponent. Maybe even more, we really admire

"comebacks".

The Khmer civilization flourished for centuries before the

Europeans even knew North America existed, so I feel somewhat foolish comparing

our tiny history to yours. But trouble is trouble, whether you are young or old,

rich or poor, and one can help the other.

I hope that Cambodia is back

on its way to peace, prosperity and serenity. Speaking as just one American, I

hope that our country will do more to help you succeed - without interfering -

and put the past away where it belongs.

Best wishes to you all. I hope to

visit Cambodia some day soon.

Bill S, Minneapolis, MN, USA

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