BE AFRAID |
February 19, 2007
Just when I think nothing will surprise me, Afghanistan throws me a curve ball. Let me set the stage. Maj Apple, Wali, Hamid (our interpreters) and I were sitting in our office having a Deep Discussion about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Somehow the topic of gays serving in the military came up, and Maj Apple and I both think they will be able to openly serve in the military very soon. (I mention this to set the stage, not to start a debate. Personally, it wouldn't bother me. If they want to come over and fight for their country, it's fine with me. Welcome.)
Once this topic came up, Wali asked why people were allowed to be openly gay in our country. We explained that in a free society, people are allowed to do pretty much what they please, as long as they are not hurting others, etc.
"But it is so revolting. A man would shame himself to do this."
"Wali," I asked, "What would happen to a man in Afghanistan if he openly declared he was gay?"
"That would never happen," replied Wali, acting as though that was as likely as the Pope converting to Islam.
"I know. But let's just pretend. For instance, let's say a famous TV personality decided he wanted to try to change things here, so he announced on TV that he was gay."
Wali interrupted. "But that would never happen."
"Maybe it would. Just tell me what you think would happen."
"His family would kill him immediately," he said without batting an eye. Remember, Wali represents moderate, westernized, Islam in Afghanistan.
"Why would you kill someone just for being gay?" I pressed.
"Because my religion says so." Again, as matter-of-fact as though he was explaining why a rock falls to the ground if you pick it up and then let go.
"Let's suppose he escaped from his family. What would the government do? Would they arrest him?"
"And would they then kill him?"
"Yes. This is an Islamic Republic. Our religion says to."
"And if someone wanted to leave Islam and join another religion, they would be executed for that too, right?"
The sad thing is, we could have been talking about football scores or the weather. He was not remotely embarrassed or hesitant in any of this. Hamid, however, was very quiet the whole time. I wonder what was going through his head.
"Well, if you believe all this, why would you want to move to America? We allow people to switch religions if they wish, or believe in nothing at all."
"Do you have people from different religions marry each other?" he asked.
"Yes, all the time," replied Maj Apple.
"What do they teach the children?"
"Usually they teach them both religions, and let them decide for themselves," said Maj Apple.
Wali seemed a bit surprised by this. Steam was starting to come out his ears.
"America is not like Afghanistan," I continued. "Our government does not tell us what to believe. We are free to believe whatever we wish. That is our greatness. We can say whatever we wish, as long as we aren't threatening to kill someone or violently overthrow the government. We can get on TV and say we think the government is awful, and no one will arrest us."
Maj Apple gave a brief explanation of how our country was founded by people who wished to worship in their own way. Once this was done, I asked again, "Do you think you could be happy in America? Muslims can leave the faith there, and no one will kill them."
"That's okay, as long as I can worship my way, I don't mind what others do."
So there you have it, the incongruity of a man who thinks it is perfectly normal to execute gays and apostates in this country, but doesn't think it's a big deal if he's living in the US. No matter what your views on homosexuality, I doubt any readers of The Sandbox want to execute gays (well, maybe some Taliban reading this trying to gather intel). Same thing with people who leave your particular faith. Would you kill them? (Hopefully that's a rhetorical question). Yet I live with seemingly normal, pleasant, hard-working people who would think nothing of doing this. This is not an isolated incident either. Other Americans have heard the same thing from their interpreters.
Now take this mindset, set temperature to high, and nuke for ten minutes, and you have some idea of the hatred and violence in the hearts of the men we are fighting against. Do you think diplomacy is going to work?
Do you think you can reason with them?
Be afraid. Be very afraid.