Afghanistan rationale: part 1

I can’t stop thinking about the article about the innocent Afghan women and girls serving multi-decade prison sentences with little hope of release. I’ll remember the details at some random moment, like walking home from class or on the bus to work, and it triggers what I can best describe as a child’s sense of outrage –the kind of outrage that is not couched in nuanced intellectual arguments. That’s just so incredibly and totally wrong, I think, and find myself balling up my fists or biting my lip.

I don’t often view things in moral absolutes of right and wrong, but, with this, I absolutely do. Oh, I really, really do.

It’s the fifteen year old girl serving a twenty-year prison sentence that my mind drifts to during my Post-Communist Politics class, as my classmates argue about the appeal of communism to the Chinese peasantry.

I have to go to Afghanistan, I think. I have to go to Afghanistan. I have to go to Afghanistan. I will go to Afghanistan. After I graduate, I will go to Afghanistan.

It is this thought that distracts me. It intrudes when I’m trying to pay attention as my professors lecture on the political economy of terrorism or why American political culture places so much emphasis on winning. When my classmates are giddily discussing game theory, I find myself glancing at the clock. I used to love this stuff. It used to thrill me, but now the thrill is gone. Abstracts don’t move me anymore, and theory interests me only to the extent that I can turn it into something tangible.

I’m not going to be an academic, I’m going to work in places like, well, Afghanistan. Teach me how to empower idealistic young journalists in the face of a violent and corrupt government that would like nothing more than to see them permanently silenced. Teach me how to interview victims of human rights violations. Teach me what to say to a fifteen year old girl who is, for the “crime” of pre-marital sex, serving a prison sentence that would be deemed long for murder in much of Europe.

But, I know these aren’t things I can learn in a classroom. I’ll have to learn by facing them in real life, and I plan to.

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