Sunday, October 15, 2006

G*d Bless America

We are back from India, Finally!

I’m not going to write too much on India. Unfortunately, the India leg of our trip was not so enjoyable. We got taken advantage of a lot, it was hot, it was dirty, smelly, and exhausting.

I was struck by just how many people live in India (my Lonely Planet says 20% of the world’s population lives in 2% of its land-India), and by just how poor it was. Granted, I was only in the northern state of Rajastan for 1 week, so my conception of India at this point is pretty limited. But really, there are so many poor people living on the street there; it is so sad. It is crazy to think of India as an up-and-coming global power when you see the level and pervasiveness of poverty there. Oddly, Rajastan only seemed a step or two above Afghanistan. Most people do not have clean water or electricity. Afghanistan has war as its excuse, but what is India’s excuse? Is it the government? Is it bad development policy implemented by the international community?

I was also struck by the images of women there. On TV, there are millions of music videos and movies featuring beautiful Indian women in western clothing seducing their men, which seemed to be a stark contrast to the women I saw living there. Our driver’s brother said, “Love is only for Bollywood. Real Marriage is not a success here.”

When I entered the US I wanted to kiss the floor of the airport. The words “God Bless America” kept coming to me and I was so happy to be a citizen of this country and to live here. I hate it when George Bush says God Bless America, and I still do. I don’t think he has a right. Keep God out of it, is the way I see it. But I will say that we are SO lucky to live here, to have clean water, to have an underground sewage system, to have trash disposal, to have public education for boys AND girls, to be able to open our mouths in the shower without worrying about catching a parasite, to use tap water to brush our teeth, to wear (nearly) whatever we want without being the focus of everyone’s attention.

As I was in India, I reminisced over the fact that I can wear shorts in Arizona, or I can wear baggy clothes, and no one cares! They don’t stare at me, they just go about their business. What a freedom. It was funny because the first day I came home I wore my jean capris and I had to grab my ass to make sure it was still there…that it hadn’t gotten lost under those pillowy fabrics. I hadn’t seen it in so long, I was beginning to wonder.

Wearing jeans doesn’t equate women’s liberation—unfortunately, it’s not that simple. But my point is there are little details in life I often take for granted. The biggest one is that I, as a woman, am part of society. It is not weird for me to go to school, to be outside relaxing, shopping, or whatever. American society still views women as secondary to men, I know that. But, I have more freedom than the women in Afghanistan and India, and for that I am grateful, and I will continually work toward Equality in the US.

My god bless America rant does not mean I think things are perfect here or that we should just accept what we have as a blessing. It took work of many Americans to make our country what it is, and we ought to be continually tweaking our system when it fails us. I also think that we as American citizens should take a greater interest in the problems of other countries. We spend so much on military defense, funding wars, funding militia groups. If we used that money to invest in clean water, education and other basic needs, I don’t think we would have the problems we are contending with in the world today. The prospect of becoming a suicide bomber is not so far fetched when you have nothing to live for—when you don’t have a job, clean water, education…

We ought to start seeing the world as our community and see how our policies, thoughts and actions affect the citizens of the world, not just the United States, because as isolated and protected we’d like to think we are, it’s just not true. Everything affects us, and everything we do affects others. Taking a sincere interest in the prosperity of other citizens of the world will improve our quality of life. We ought to stop dividing ourselves from others and start seeing that they could be us. If my family never left Afghanistan I might not be writing this blog to you. I’d probably have 5 kids, who knows if I’d have an education or a voice. Maybe I’d be dead—if not from war, from a parasite in the water, or from the chemical pollution left behind from war.

Do I make a difference to you? Would I make a difference to you if I was still in Afghanistan?

The best form of national security is not closing our borders and running away. It’s opening our eyes and our hearts. There is a world out there that is aching and we have a choice to look the other way or accept that those are our fellow brothers who are unemployed, sleeping on the streets. Those are our sisters without access to education, and thus access to a different life. We have the privilege to make a difference, so what are we waiting for? If you’re concerned about national security, don’t put your votes toward border control and guns. Instead pay for a child to go to school, support women’s equality. Support GROWTH not destruction, LOVE not hate. Support PEACE and support LIFE. As American citizens we are power brokers in the future of the world. You can use your power, or throw the opportunity away. What will you choose? REMEMBER: your voice makes a tremendous difference. Don’t forget to Vote on November 7th.