26 November 2010

Three Cups of Tea

I just finished a book given to me by my sister once she found out I was going to Afghanistan.  It’s called Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin.  It is about an American mountain climber who failed to climb K2.  Injured and lost, a village in Pakistan took him in and nursed him back to health.  He asked what he could do in return to thank them and they said build us a school.  Since then he has built 131 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I found the book slow to start and sometimes his tone seemed very arrogant to me, but overall the book was extremely interesting and gave me an amazing insight into this foreign land that I am living. www.threecupsoftea.com  

I am living in Afghanistan, but I feel so removed from it.  I’m not allowed outside the wire, and mostly no one is allowed in, so here I am in the middle of Afghanistan but in my own little world.  The first time I saw an Afghan child was at the bazaar last Saturday.  They looked so sickly.  The images still stick in my head.  If I’m in Afghanistan, and I can feel removed from the fighting, how do Americans stateside feel?

“He wondered how the distance that he felt in the Pentagon affected the decisions made in the building.  How would his feelings about the conduct of the war change if everything he’d just seen the boys who had lost their potato salesman father, the girls with the blowing-over blackboard, and all the wounded attempting to walk the streets of Kabul with the pieces of limbs the land mines and cluster-bombs had left them, were just numbers on a laptop screen.”

I think we can all feel this way.  If war casualties are just flashes on a ticker on the bottom of CNN or the fallen young men that gave their lives in Vietnam are just names on a black wall in the middle of Washington, we lose the meaning of their sacrifice.

We’ve been at war in Afghanistan for 9 years.  Before, during, and after this time, extremists are building wahhabi madrassas.  These are schools that indoctrinate the students with extremist ideas and raises them to only know hatred for Westerners and jihad as a way of life. 

Mortensen says, “I’ve learned that terror doesn’t happen because some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan simply decide to hate us.  It happens because children aren’t being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death.”

My friend, Natalie Committee, is volunteering for a year in Uganda to help the women there provide for themselves and their families.  Natalie mentions this same sort of theme in her blog that Mortensen does.  Natalie writes:  “The point is that many of us have been told since we were little that we could be anything we want to be.  Many of the girls here, on the other hand, have grown up seeing the other women in their lives treated as inferior beings, not worthy of a proper education, working hard their whole lives and still struggling just to survive.  In addition to that, their country and their lives have been ripped apart by the devastation of war and violence, leaving them with many bad memories and few opportunities for a productive future.  So when I ask them about their dreams, it is no wonder that I was met with nervous giggles and blank faces.”

All over the world, young men and women do not have the opportunities we do.  They have no hopes and dreams, because they can’t picture a future without war, violence, greed and destruction.  If you don’t care about the poor and starving children elsewhere in the world, if you would like to claim it’s just their problem, well then maybe you would want to help for even selfish reasons.  These children, the ones who are poor and suffering, who have no opportunities, are the ones who are going to take the opportunity to make $100 burying a land mine on a route for American troops.

Mortenson discussing the cost of the war in Afghanistan says, “for that much money you could build dozens of schools that could provide tens of thousands of students with a balanced nonextremist education over the course of a generation.  Which do you think will make us more secure?”

I’m not writing this to preach or to state certain views.  I'm writing this because this book got me thinking, and I wanted to provide an impetus for people to start thinking too.  Think about all the opportunities you have, think about the world you were born into, and think about the world you want to leave.  I'm over here because I support our troops and I believe that they are helping the people of Afghanistan.  I just hope that once the dust settles, we will continue to help them rebuild, so the cycle of intolerance does not continue it’s eternal spin of hatred and death.

“You have to attack the source of your enemy’s strength.  In America’s case, that’s not Osama or Saddam or anyone else.  The enemy is ignorance.  The only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business.  Otherwise the fight will go on forever.” – Brigadier General Bashir Baz of Pakistan in Three Cups of Tea

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed the second to last paragraph...good stuff skemp :-) -LawnGnome