by Joyce Marcel
a warm and tender moment, my husband wraps his arms around me and holds me tight against his heart.
I close my eyes and see the Afghani woman. She, too, is in the arms of her husband. They are a handsome pair, these two -- young, dark-haired, dark-eyed, as much in love as my husband and me. And like us, all they want is to live their life together. But they have not eaten for days, their home has been demolished, and they are crouching for cover behind a rock.
It is a slow Sunday, and I idly leaf through the Christmas catalogs that are forming piles on my night stand. Eddie Bauer, J. Jill, Smith & Hawken, The Company Store, Sierra Designs. I am a writer, so I am poor, but if I had money there would be many interesting things to buy.
Then I close my eyes and see the Afghani woman. Her clothing is in shreds that flutter in the cruel wind. There is nothing for her to buy, and if there were, she would have no money.
On Monday mornings I weigh myself, then promise myself to go back on a diet. But in my mind the Afghani woman and her husband are thin and weak with starvation.
It is growing cold now in Vermont, so I put flannel sheets on the bed and poke at the wood stove. I add a log and the coals spring into flames.
Then I close my eyes and find myself looking into the wild, frightened eyes of the Afghani woman. Winter has come early to Afghanistan this year. She has no bed, no sheets, no stove. There is no wood for her husband to cut, and if there was, there would be no matches to light a fire. Their only heat comes from their two bodies pressed together, and all they want is to survive.
I walk with a friend. Since Sept. 11, she tells me, she has not felt threatened. She knows that if something bad happens, she and her family can flee north to Canada. "I have the strength and the will to live in the woods and to hunt to feed my family," she says.
And I see the Afghani woman with no place to run. She is brave; she would hunt if there was something to hunt for. But everything that moves or grows was eaten long ago, or else it dried up and blew away in the drought.
I read a magazine story about women's relationships with their fathers. The writer offers insights about young girls who seek their fathers' approval, and as a result, end up in careers that might not fulfill their deepest needs.
Usually, I enjoy insights about my childhood and how it has affected my life. But now I think about the Afghani woman; for her, just now, self-actualization is not an burning problem.
A plane flies overhead as I walk down Kipling Road. It could be a cropduster, I think idly, and try to find it. It turns out to be just a small plane, a needle darning the clouds, in and out.
We are carpet-bombing Afghanistan today, dropping bombs the size of Volkswagens. When the Afghani woman looks up, it is not out of idle curiosity, and I feel the same terror that her heart feels as it beats against her chest.
I am haunted by this Afghani woman, whom I have never met, and who has done nothing to deserve her awful life. I am as haunted by her as I am by the thousands of people who lost their lives on Sept. 11.
The world has gone mad. First, psychotic, angry, hate-filled men inflict pain, terror and destruction on my country.
Then, in retaliation, my country bombs a people we openly call "innocent."
The bombs we drop are yellow, the same color as the food packages we drop. According to humanitarian aid workers, the food is only 1 percent of what is needed in Afghanistan right now. We hear that seven million people might starve there this winter.
We are using high-flying planes to catch a man who hides in caves.
We may be sending trained but unseasoned young men to fight against warriors who have defeated every invader since Alexander the Great.
In many ways, our allies are as evil as our enemies.
Thousands of would-be fighters are flocking to Pakistan; they would join the Taliban if they were allowed to. We are inflaming with hatred a Muslim world armed with nuclear weapons.
No one hates the Sept. 11 terrorists more than I do. I hate them for destroying so many unfinished lives, for hurting so many families, for ruining Lower Manhattan, for hating women, and most of all for their ghastly arrogance, which has ruined so much that was beautiful and alive.
But surely we are intelligent and creative enough to find a way to bring these criminals to justice without all this wanton and irrelevant bombing. And to bring to justice the home-grown terrorists who are, I am convinced, behind the anthrax scare.
As I watch the world go raving mad, I am torn between empathy and fear.
Although she is younger, darker and more beautiful than I am, I am that Afghani woman.
November 12, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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