In a rather cruel irony, after we here at fDihad decided that our next cover story would be all about disasters and turmoil (a lovely theme for the start of summer in the northern hemisphere), my own home turf got battered by a deadly and hugely destructive series of tornados.

In the southern US state of Alabama, from where I hail, more than 300 people were left dead and tens of thousands of homes and businesses lie in ruins after storms lashed a swathe of the state which included both my hometown and my much-loved university town, Tuscaloosa. (Please do not get me started on the American football team which is based in this town or I will not stop typing.) That’s the trouble with emergencies: you never know when or where they will strike, or how people will react to them.


Interestingly – and heart-warmingly for me – the Alabama tragedy sparked an immediate reaction in an unexpected place. In the Lviv region of western Ukraine, a place no doubt unknown to most Alabamians, the executive director of the regional mayors’ association sat down to write a touching letter of condolence to the mayors of the affected cities and to the governor of Alabama. This particular Ukrainian politician, it must be said, has long felt a cultural affinity for my state, being a huge fan of American rock music and an ardent lover of the 1970s Lynyrd Skynyrd song 'Sweet Home Alabama'.

Within hours, there were reports on local news outlets in Alabama about the letter from Ukraine. One report even included a hastily generated illustration showing a world map with a big red line connecting Alabama to Ukraine, which could not help but bring a smile to my face. It occurred to me that this is the way global connections are made; it just takes one encounter, one line suddenly connecting one point to another, and next thing you know there are business deals, trade missions, and investment flows. Who knows, maybe this one, quite personal, letter could open the door to political dialogue and commercial ties between two places that on the surface have little to connect them.

And why stop there? One red line becomes another, and they multiply across regions, merging together to form bigger and closer ties. In fact, I could write an entire thesis about the many similarities between the part of the world I come from – generally referred to as 'the Bible Belt' but which I prefer to call 'the Grits Belt', after a distinctly regional food preference – and that of the big-hearted Ukrainian politician – which I class as 'the Herring Belt' after another acquired-taste and region-specific menu item. Let’s bring the grits and the herring together and see what happens, y'all.

Courtney Fingar is the editor of fDi Magazine