Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Kite Runner - Part Two

A well-read and thoughtful friend of mine recommended The Kite Runner in a letter she recently wrote to me. She said that it poked her spirit and provoked prayer and reflection. It has done all of that and so much more than that for me.

I have been prompted to renew my questioning of the ways in which “oppressed” people are liberated from their oppressors. I recently read a quote by a Vietnamese writer who penned: “Liberate us from your liberation.” I wonder how many “liberated people” around the world would echo his sentiments. I wonder about the plight of so many black South Africans who have been given the right to vote, but are still denied access to many avenues of wealth there. After this morning's the Civil War lesson with the kids this morning, I once again wondered about the plight of the newly freed slaves in the late 1860’s. They were liberated from slavery, but liberated to do what? I think of the millions of people in India who were liberated from British rule only to face the enormous challenge of building and maintaining a democracy that benefits all of its citizens was more than could ever have imagined. Then there are the Afghanis who were freed from heavy handed monarchies, but then subjugated by the Russians. Then they were given weapons and other forms of aid to rid themselves of the Russians, only to be subjugated by the Taliban. Now there is a newborn and fledgling democracy, but it has come at an enormous cost to their nation, to their families, to their very spirit. If this novel, The Kite Runner, presents even a fractional portrayal of what has plagued their bruised and battered nation in the last century, then there must be many who wonder about the true benefit of liberation.

I have been prompted to renew my questioning of the ways in which religion is used as a tool of liberation, an excuse for oppression, and a catalyst for revolution. Religious zeal and a quest for freedom to practice it brought the Pilgrims and Quakers to these American shores. That same religious zeal lead to the hanging and drowning of many women and men who were suspected of being witches, adulterers, thieves, and any of an assortment of rebellious acts against the newly established religious authorities. Two thirds of the way down the Atlantic Coast, religion was one of the driving forces behind the Civil War. Interestingly enough, the same Bible was used to justify both the liberation and the enslavement of Africans. Even today religious zeal fuels the conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians, Muslims of all stripes in the Middle East, Hindi and Muslim in India and Pakistan, and between many who claim to be Christians right here in America.

I have been prompted to ask myself what I would do, how I would live, and whether or not I would even survive under the circumstances faced by the Afghanis during the communist regime, during the Taliban regime, and during the current regime. I have been prompted to ask myself what I would do if “a liberating force’ entered the United States of America in order to liberate us from our governmental leadership. Even if I didn't like my nation's leadership, would I take up arms against the “liberators”? Would I consider those who worked with and for “the liberators” traitors? Would I be willing to sabotage or disable their communications, their vehicles, or the “liberators” themselves if they were on American soil? Could I keep silent and would I maintain my non-violent standards under those circumstances? If not, then is it fair for me to condemn the actions of people who believe that they are defending their homeland against “liberators”?

I am no longer as convinced as I used to be that there are simple answers to these questions. I used to think there was one simple answer: peace is always the answer. Violence and war are never the right choice. I was challenged in a poignant way about my stance on violence several years ago while in a parenting course that encouraged spanking my children with a paddle of some sort. The leaders of the course said that if we didn’t use our hands our children would not think of our hands as the means by which they were being punished. Neither my husband nor I ever felt comfortable using some other implement to spank our children. Soon thereafter we made the decision to no longer spank our children. I regret every time I ever hit them, and I have asked them both for forgiveness. In addition, I found it hypocritical to condemn my children for hitting each other when I was hitting them myself. On the other hand, I know it wouldn’t take long for me to make a fist and throw it if someone threatened my children in a credible and imminent way. Deep breath – deep conflict.

But does my personal policy on violence hold sway in the international arena? What would have happened in Europe during Hitler’s reign of terror if war had not been declared against him? What would have happened if the Civil War had never been fought here in America? Those questions seem far easier for me to answer than the ones that plague me about the current situations in Afghanistan and Iraq. What would have happened if the Taliban remained in power in Afghanistan? Would more attacks on the US have been launched? What would have happened if Saddam Hussein had remained in power in Iraq? Would he have used weapons of mass destruction against his own people again? Would he have used them against anyone else? Would he ever have been ousted from power from within? Are the people of Afghanistan and Iraq better off now that they have been liberated? With all the death, destruction, and instability that their liberation has cost them, would they choose the same path of freedom again if given the choice? Did they have a choice? Did they deserve one? Is the world safer now with the Taliban and Hussein out of power? How are the safety of our world and the worthiness of war even measured? Who does the measuring? Don't the Cubans and the Haitians and the Chinese and the North Koreans and the Columbians deserve to be liberated? If so, who will liberate them?

I finished The Kite Runner after 11 PM last night. I dropped the book onto the floor and surrendered to my troubled and conflicted state of mind. Questions stalked my exhausted spirit while answers eluded it. Visions of the torched hulls of vehicles, the lifeless bodies of infidels lying in the streets, and terrified children scouring garbage dumps and mine-strewn fields for food danced in my head. But when I awoke under my thick down comforter next to my handsome husband in an ornate Italian-made bed in the master bedroom of our elegant brick home on a quiet cul-de-sac in tony South Charlotte with my pantry and two refrigerators full of food, I remembered that I was safe. The cover of the novel that had torn my soul open was all that was needed to protect me from the bombs, carnage, and hysteria of war, poverty, and holocaust. Most of the mothers in Baghdad, Soweto, Phuket, Kabul, Darfur, Sarajevo, Colombo, Banda Aceh, Medellin, Buenos Aires, and many inner cities right here in the USA did not wake up to that same sense of security.

Kyrie Eleison.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Gail, I often wonder what it would have looked like in countless situations if the Christians in the South, the North, or in Germany, had gotten together with the rest of the Church worldwide and resisted Hitler's party, or the advent of slavery... would nazism or slavery gotten the foothold it did? Though I know our theologies will never be perfect, or that we will ever reach full knowledge of what it means to follow Jesus--I wonder what stories history would tell if our theology would have been more holistic, and less fearful. So many of the events you mentioned were produced out of fear, and not trust of God... you know, instead of burning countless number of women and children for fear of the devil, or fear of losing money, standing, and physical lives (if slavery was over, how would one make his livelihood?)... it generally boils down to a simple violation of not loving one another as one loves him/herself. And then I think about the fact that God has kept his promise and not sent another flood to destroy all of humanity, I'm amazed at his grace. Just some things I've been thinking about... and working on for student talks... will write more later. I totally enjoyed reading some of your blogs tonight--a nice break from writing talks... and the mounds of snow outside. - Joanne :)