Author, world traveler, humanitarian and Rotary Club member Chris Verrill takes us on a post-9/11 journey to places both friendly and hostile in Is For Good Men To Do Nothing, an entertaining and often enlightening look at how we Americans are viewed in the world. But this book is also part social commentary, part humorous travelogue, part disturbing glimpse into third-world poverty, and part guide to personal activism, as the author sets out with the motive of making the world a better place even in the face of danger, violence, despair and war.
Verrill’s main goal is to set up a vocational educational program in war-torn Afghanistan to aid Afghan refugees by providing them with hope for their future. His very human mission conflicts with the political maneuverings of the Bush Administration, hell-bent on Christianizing the Middle East, and the author finds varied viewpoints in the countries he visits when they learn of his American heritage. His journey is one of discovery as he meets up with danger in some nations, intrigue in others, horrific poverty and living conditions in others, even personal suffering in others still. All the while, though, he provides us with a diary-like chronicle of his experiences, emotions and insights along the way that truly gives us an understanding of how others a world away live and feel and even die.
Where the book fails to engage is when the author tosses in his feelings about politics, the war in Iraq (which was still thought to be a noble one at the time he wrote the book), and the fight for democracy abroad. The problem is that timeliness is such an issue, and much of his commentary rings hollow today in light of the new information about the Bush Administration’s lies, deception and outright plans of domination in Iraq and other “terrorist” nations. Little did Verrill know what fresh hell the next two years would bring to the nation and that our own President would be considered the world’s leading terrorist in polls taken a short time later around the world. How quickly public opinion changes.
But as a wonderfully entertaining and educational documentation of the author’s world travels as a Rotarian with a big heart and the unusual people, places and things he encounters, including some scary run-ins with foreign security forces and petty criminals alike, the book succeeds. And as an occasional witty travelogue it certainly keeps the reader interested, what with stories like the one of Verrill watching his Rotary friend Molly get hit on and almost puked on at the same time on a bus ride to Pakistan.
Chris Verrill has been around, and his experiences are worth reading about, even if his exhuberence for America’s attempts to bring democracy to other countries seems a bit too optimistic in light of the Vietnam-like quagmire the Iraq War has become. But this is a guy with a soul and a heart and a conscience and a purpose that transcend politics, and I’d travel with him anytime.