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Daily Archives: Apr 22, 2012

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Someday, Afghan girls want to be just like her. An American serving in the Navy. (via DVIDS)

On a personal front it’s been busy here the last day or so, and so I haven’t had much time to peruse the art of the bloggable.

Then this particular piece of *choke* *splutter* caught my eye.

“Afghans are people just like us ….” said Dip.

Now I realize that most people who have any more than a passing interest in what’s happening in Afghanistan aren’t reading DVIDS. It’s another in a long line of self-deluding military programs whereby the fine folks at the Public Affairs Office convince themselves that they’re “getting the message out.”

But this is ridiculous. File that comment under  “things you don’t even think, much less say.”

Read the whole article: it’s an interesting summary of how Dip made it a point to get some IDPs in Kabul some socks. Good on ya.

It gets better: there’s a gender component.

Inspiring a future full of opportunities is a critical goal for Joint Visitor Bureau Personal Security Detail Chief USMC Lt. Col. Julia Hunt and Team Leader MA2 Ashley Hickerson. Both have participated in several volunteer missions for the Give Me Socks foundation. They each noted the importance of showing Afghan women that they can be strong leaders, make a difference and set a positive example.

“It’s important to be a good role model,” said Hickerson, “to be an outstanding individual and show these women that there is strength in our gender, in our numbers and to be positive… especially the teenage girls,” added Hunt. “They are staring the rest of their life directly in the face and will most likely be married in no time at all with no other choices made available to them … there is a traditional resistance to Afghan women having a say in their life. It makes me appreciate so much what I’ve been able to do with my life and to have a chance to show these young girls that they can do it too.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that gender issues anywhere, particularly in Afghanistan, are really none of my business. I can’t know, ever, what it’s like to be a woman in Afghanistan. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t cover it, or that I don’t think it’s vital to the long-term success of this country, because I do.

It does mean that I’m not going to opine on the state of Afghan women.

However.

The life of an American service member is so far removed from that of an Afghan teenage girl that the gap is nearly interplanetary. Mars/Venus sort of thing.

I know, I know: she means well. Again, I applaud her for doing at least something in some small way to help the Afghan people, particularly IDPs in Kabul, which is a population largely neglected by the government of Afghanistan.

But it’s that kind of colonialist “hey, everybody, look what the white ladies do” attitude that pervades so much of the aid work that takes place here. And by “here” I mean “Earth.”

Rather than coordinating an event with Afghan women (not much older than those girls) who are actually doing something in Afghanistan, and therefore might be an actual attainable role model, ISAF troops hand out some socks. Oh, as an FYI, such women do exist in Afghanistan.

I’m not asking for a sustainable project, since ISAF “sustainable” means “will last until 2014.” What I am asking for is for people to keep looking for ways to connect Afghans with other Afghans. Not some Westernized ideal of what you think Afghans should aspire to: they’re people, yes, but they’re Afghans. Their world is different, and no one knows that better than other…Afghans.

I’m just asking for something other than this:

Little things mean a lot to people trying to survive and again, the Afghans are people just like you and I – they deserved our help.

Since I wasn’t aware that the personhood of Afghans was ever actually in doubt.

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