I sent my friend Maryam an e-mail…wanted to make sure she didn’t mind me using her picture in this piece. A female activist in her country was recently assassinated for audaciously using words to call attention to the suffering in her land. There’s money and power in misery, and those who try to pull the plug on the money machine will pay…with their lives, if necessary. I didn’t want to put my friend in any such danger. She is a poet, and she has a voice, and she is a woman, and…she’s from the dangerous and demonized nation of Pakistan.
She didn’t answer for a few days, and I was concerned. Finally, this came:
“Major electricity and internet problem ! Our government is striving to provide us with many options of ‘going out’. Now, everyone is losing their hope for a brighter day. Those who have means to go away are leaving for countries other than Pakistan. It surely is getting catastrophic. It sure does give unforgiving heartache to see your country being bled to death.”
I hear smug, self-righteous voices reciting records of slaughter as if their favorite sporting team had put one in the “win” column. I sense satisfaction when news of more dead bodies to be piled – more coffins to built and filled – surgical strikes – collateral damage, is reported – oh well…they probably deserved it any way. This disaster needs a face, and here’s one…the face of the “enemy”…and, the words of the “enemy” –
“My hope is that one day I will be able to travel the world, to meet people and relate the story of a land beautiful and green which has been polluted by the hands of us mortals. I believe in the coming years, the people more than the government will be responsible for the change towards nations like us, especially when they get to see the human side of things politicized.”
Maryam is a writer, a poet, from a city known for its poets. She recently earned a degree in commerce, but her leg was broken, and she had to put further studies on hold for a while. She and her friends like to dress in ways that might dismay her elders, like so many young women do all over the world. She thinks her words and opinions have value, like so many young women do all over the world. She likes shoes, a passion she and my wife share,like so many young women all over the world…just one more pair of shoes.
Maryam is publishing her first book, a collection of poetry currently in the final editing process. She hopes to come to the United States and give readings of some of her works concerning the destruction of her country and the difficulties that come with being a young woman who thinks for herself, and thinks the world can be a better place for us all to live in.
I take pride in the fact that Maryam asked me to write a dedication for her poetry collection.
My wife is proud that Maryam asked her if she would allow a few of her photographs to grace the pages of her poetry collection.
Maryam is so gracious, thanking us again and again for our contributions, and I sit here thinking that I should be thankful that she wants me to contribute what little I can to her effort to improve the lives of the people of her country, and the lives of young women the world over.
I am humbled.
I do not believe in surgical strikes.
I am not stupid.
I watch the news now and again, too often, it seems, and I hear the wail of the world being slowly turned into a charnel pit.
I am not deaf…or sightless…or voiceless…and somtimes I feel so very alone.
Thanks for allowing me to be a part of your world, Maryam…I hope that during your lifetime you can write the world to a deeper understanding of just who the “enemy” is, and that those enemies of the world will not only read your words, but take them to heart.
Your burden is something most of us can’t even imagine.
Good luck to you, my friend.