Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

I miss Afghanistan, a country I once called home

I put cardamom in almost every cup of tea I drink. I put cardamom in my coffee. I put cardamom in my rice and beans. Sometimes when I make cookies, I even put cardamom in them. “Are you okay?” some may ask me. Some look at me strangely and ask, “Why would you ever have the desire to put one spice in everything?” Every time I crack open a cardamom pod between my teeth, every time the soft powder of ground up cardamom glides through my mouth, I am wrenched back through time to a world that once gave me my childhood.

I was three months old when my parents moved our family to Afghanistan, and I was five when they decided to move our family back to the U.S. I never liked the U.S much, or at least the part where I moved to. I was born in Upstate New York, but when my family moved back from Afghanistan we only lived in New York for a little while, before we moved to rural Eastern Montana.

I hated it there. I hated how small the town was. I hated the way people talked. I hated the desolate prairies and badlands that surrounded the town. I hated the tasteless food. I hated the way people only ever spoke about cows and how much they hated democrats. I really hated those stupid cows! All I would hear was, “My family has this many cows”, “My family has been in this town for generations, and we own so many cows”, “Well, my family is related to a rich powerful man in town… and he has lots of cows.”

I wanted to go back to Afghanistan. I wanted to taste real naan again. The kind of naan that I could fetch from right down the street, the kind that was thrown against the side of a fiery clay tandoor and that had a stamp imprinted into its middle. I wanted to go to school with my Afghan and missionary friends, and eat a lunch of spiced rice, beans and naan. I wanted to wear Afghan cloths again, the types that had beautiful bright patterns and adornments. I wanted to hold my mother’s gentle hand, as she and I walked the streets of the Afghan bazaar, our heads covered in colorful scarfs, our feet surrounded by swirling grains of sand.

I wanted to go to an Afghan wedding again. I remembered how I used to love their weddings, and how I would beg my mom to always go with her to them. I remembered always getting excited when the bride would walk up the stairs in her adorned green dress, then reenter the room in a beautiful flowing white dress. The weddings lasted for hours, and I never got tired of the dancing, or the music, or the food. I would sit there for hours and scoop up my pilau with torn off pieces of naan, and I would listen to the Afghan women gossip while their yellow gold jewelry and adornments glistened against their bodies and clothes.

When my dad used to take me to school, he would let me ride in the trunk of the car when we had time to go the long way. We would take the dirt road instead of the main road, and I would sit in the trunk and giggle as I bounced around as we hit bumps and potholes. My parents were both missionaries. We could not outright say that our family was Christian, but the locals assumed that we were because we were white, and we were from the West.

My dad is a plant scientist, and he was helping local farmers in Afghanistan. He mentioned once that he originally was looking for a plant that could replace the opium poppy, but he was never able to find one. He tried using melons to replace poppies, and I remember the acres of fields he used to take me to when I went to work with him, that were filled with them. Nothing though, was able to produce as much profit as poppies. Opium poppies thrive in the dry climate of Afghanistan, and they are easy to store and make a profit off.

Afghanistan has been the West’s main opium supplier for decades and they produce 90 percent of the world’s heroin. I remember the poppy field. It is haunting to think of how something so bright and beautiful could ruin so many lives. I think of one Christmas evening in the U.S, when my mom was talking to my grandmother and she told my grandmother that Afghans would often put opium in their children’s water or food, because the drug made them forget about their crippling hunger.

One time, in late high school, when I was driving around with one of my friends, she spoke to me about how when she was younger, she used to always feel scared whenever she saw someone wearing a hijab or someone who looked like they might be Arab. I thought that was interesting, because I had never had that fear when I was a child. I remember how I used to always love going to Middle Eastern restaurants and how I loved meeting people from the Middle East.

I do not say this to somehow put myself on a moral high ground, or to suggest that I have never held prejudices towards a group of people in my life. I am simply suggesting that the reason I never had prejudices towards the people of the Middle East is because at a young age I was shown who Middle Eastern people really were. I was not influenced by Western media and propaganda, that used its power to encourage the funding of horrendous unjustifiable wars in the Middle East. I never believed that Muslims were terrorists. I understand who the Taliban are. My parents have told me how young Arab boys are often taken from their homes and trained and sometimes forced to except the philosophy of the Taliban. Afghanistan is not an easy country to escape, and even if it was how would you feel about leaving your home that you have lived all your life. A home where your now dead family members used to live.

Recently in my ethics class, we were given a proposition. We were given a real-world example of two Navy Seals that were in the mountains of Afghanistan, and who had been spotted by Afghan shepherds. The Seals had captured the shepherds and were contemplating whether to kill them. They knew that if they released them, there was a chance they would report the Seals location to the Taliban. Our job, as the class, was to decide whether we would kill the shepherds. As the class discussed, I noticed that nobody seemed to care what would happen if they killed the shepherds.

The only reason they did not want to kill the shepherds was to preserve their moral conscious. Nobody realized that if the Seals killed the shepherds, they would be killing the men of someone’s house. Afghan women, during Taliban rule, are not allowed to step outside without a man. Killing the shepherds would ruin more than just their lives. Nobody brought that up though, because like classic Americans we only care about ourselves, and we villainize those who look different than us.

I think of my country, and I am ashamed. I am ashamed of my country’s ignorance and bigotry. I am ashamed of my country’s propaganda and media. I am ashamed of how my country refuses to apologize and take accountability for their horrific actions in the Middle East. I am ashamed to call this country my home. I am ashamed of my family members who have placed our country on a pedestal.

Afghan civilians are starving because a twenty-year war uprooted their economy. Hundreds of thousands of families have been torn apart and killed because the U.S simply looks at war casualties as mere numbers, instead of actual human beings. There are villages and parts of cities and homes that are now nothing more than rubble. Sit with that. Let it sink in. Take out the key to the cage where your empathy has been locked in and swing open the door.

I want you to imagine steep dusty mountains that stand in the distance. Slowly they roll into arid plains where rows of basketball-sized melons and blood red poppies thrive. Single lane dirt roads meander towards an unwalled city. The city does not contain tall buildings that stretch towards the sky like towers of Babel, rather soft minuets are painted against the pastels of the sky.

Skinny children quickly pass around a beat-up soccer ball in the street, this is the one distraction they have from the chaos of their world. They do not know if tomorrow their world will be turned upside down, because a foreign power decided that things ought to be a certain way in their country. They do not know if today a stray bomb will hit their home and kill their mother and father. Sit with the fact that the bazaars my mother and I used to walk through may not be there anymore. I do not know what is left of my childhood home, or the Afghans who used to be like family to me.

Just like Vietnam, the U.S. extended the Afghan war after we knew we had already lost. Just like many other colonialist powers, the U.S. charged into Afghanistan and ended up killing thousands of civilians. The U.S was rather stupid in fact to think that they could possibly win the war in Afghanistan. Look at the history of Afghanistan, read “The Great Game.” Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the British, the USSR and the U.S. all tried to take over Afghanistan, and they all failed miserably. There is a reason the country is called “the graveyard of empires.”

A memory of one of my family members ranting about the hasty exist of U.S troops from Afghanistan often visits my mind. They were angry that the Taliban had apprehended millions of dollars’ worth of U.S military equipment, that the U.S had just left there. When I brought up to this family member that the seizing of that equipment enabled the Taliban to take over the country in a manner of weeks and therefore oppress millions of Afghans, they did not care about that though. They continued to fume over the millions of dollars lost instead of the people that were now suffering.

I understand that 9/11 was a terrible tragedy. Do not scream in my ear, proclaiming that I do not care about the victims and families that were impacted by the tragedy. I also know, though, that the U.S. should have seen it coming. Did we really think that we could destroy the Middle East and not have any consequences? Did we think that colonialism would have no repercussions? What happened to U.S. civilians on 9/11 happens to the people of the Middle East multiple times a year.

I miss it so much. I miss the music, the people and the constant smell of spices. I look at the citizens of the U.S. and I do not understand. I do not understand why they hate so much. I pray that one day I may see the day when the people of Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and Syria wake to the sound of birds not bombs. I pray that one day the women of Iran will be free. I pray that the people of the West will wake up and realize that they have been lied to and are being manipulated to hate Muslims and the people of the Middle East and to only see them as terrorists. I pray that Afghans will be able to look up to the sky one day and see no army planes or helicopters circling their cities. I pray that one day they will no longer have to rely on the profits of opium to feed their families. I pray that the fields that American soldiers have trampled will regrow and thrive. I pray that the woman of Afghanistan will no longer be beaten for going outside without a burka, that they will be able to go to school, and become doctors and teachers, and politicians, and athletes, and that they will be able to live their lives as they choose. I pray that one day, the beautiful people of Afghanistan will finally know piece.