Santa Clara University

Santa Clara Magazine

From the editor

The country of honorable people

There are photographs which, when you happen upon them, startle for a moment and then let you go: a dramatic instant framed, message transmitted, received, over and out. The meaning, while not necessarily insignificant, is right there on the surface. And then there are those photos, like the one on the cover of this magazine, which ask you to see in a way that perhaps you haven’t before—or if you have, it’s been a long time. But more than that, this act of seeing is not something to be rushed. Nor is it neatly packaged in cellophane and waiting to be unwrapped, consumed, forgotten.

Rather, it is a plea for understanding, the promise of a wisdom to be gained over time. What gives the image this quality? Perhaps it is the luminescent white of the garment, its pale folds speaking of something simple and true. Of course it is the learned hands, cradling the threaded beads. Count your worries and speak your prayers. And it is the gaze that holds you transfixed: welcoming, questioning.

He lives in the village of Bereba, in the Country of Honorable People—a West African nation you might know better as Burkina Faso. Photographer and SCU lecturer David Pace was there this past winter visiting Santa Clara colleagues Leslie Gray and Michael Kevane, whose work in Africa includes a libraries project for villages that stretches back some years. As for the cover photo, it’s part of an essay in this issue asking you to take a moment to try and see the person in front of you—in the dignity each possesses, by virtue of their humanity: Who is this man, this woman, this child—whose lives are not making headlines today?

Of course, the absence of newsworthy events in their lives can be a blessing indeed. The pieces in this magazine that look at current events in Iraq and Iran—interviews with Leon Panetta and Reza Aslan—bring that point home. So does the fiction of Khaled Hosseini, depicting what he calls “lives of ordinary people caught in very extraordinary experiences.” All three offer a challenge that is all the more difficult: amid violence and mayhem, to find the ability to see deeply.

That’s not to say to see naively. (Burkina Faso—the Country of Honorable People—was given its present name by leaders who had taken power in a military coup in 1983 and discarded the name Upper Volta.) Instead, the demand might be to see a difference between people and government—or between what is and what could be.

Keep the faith,

Steven Boyd Saum

Steven Boyd Saum

Managing Editor