Momentum: THE AFGHANI WOMAN
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- In a warm and tender moment, my husband wraps his arm= s 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, dar= k-eyed, as much in love as my husband and me. And like us, all they want i= s 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 shred= s that flutter in the cruel wind. There is nothing for her to buy, and if t= here were, she would have no money.
On Monday mornings I weigh myself, then promise myself to go back on a d= iet. But in my mind the Afghani woman and her husband are thin and weak wit= h 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 int= o flames.
Then I close my eyes and find myself looking into the wild, frightened e= yes of the Afghani woman. Winter has come early to Afghanistan this year. S= he 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 h= eat comes from their two bodies pressed together, and all they want is to s= urvive.
I walk with a friend. Since Sept. 11, she tells me, she has not felt thr= eatened. She knows that if something bad happens, she and her family can fl= ee north to Canada. "I have the strength and the will to livein the woods = and to hunt to feed my family," she says.
And I see the Afghani woman wit= h no place to run. She is brave; she would hunt if there was something to h= unt 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' approv= al, 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-actu= alization is not an burning problem.
A plane flies overhead as I walk dow= n 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 an= d out.
We are carpet-bombing Afghanistan today, dropping bombs the size of Volk= swagens. 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 che= st.
I am haunted by this Afghani woman, whom I have never met, and who has d= one nothing to deserve her awful life. I am as haunted by her as I am by th= e thousands of people who lost their lives on Sept. 11.
The world has gon= e mad. First, psychotic, angry, hate-filled men inflict pain, terror and d= estruction 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 againstwarriors wh= o have defeated every invader since Alexander the Great.
In many ways, ou= r allies are as evil as our enemies.
Thousands of would-be fighters are f= locking to Pakistan; they would join the Taliban if they were allowed to. W= e 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 des= troying so many unfinished lives, for hurting so many families, for ruining= Lower Manhattan, for hating women, and most of all for their ghastly arrog= ance, 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.
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist who writes about culture,politics= , economics and travel.