Monday, December 7, 2009
My book club recently read A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini. Set in war torn Afganistan, I found it was an especially sad novel. I think it was easier for me, knowing when I started the novel that it was going to be sad and heart-wrenching.
Throughout the novel, I kept thinking "Can it get any worse for the two main female characters?" And, yes, it could. Life got worse particularly as the Taliban came into power. At one point, the two lead characters, Mariam and Laila, tried to escape their abusive husband. But they couldn't leave Afganistan, as two women, because there wasn't a man with them. They were returned by the Taliban to the husband, who almost killed both of them (including the young daughter) for trying to leave.
The book was so hopeless, it almost seemed like a propaganda piece. But it's not as if the reports of the life of women under the regime of the Taliban were untrue - women unable to find a hospital to give birth in - giving birth under squalid and inhumane circumstances. The thought of the people of Afganistan wanting to go back to that situation gives me pause.
I, for one, certainly do not believe the U.S. needs to be the world's police force, or needs to rescue people in these countries.
With that said, it seems deplorable that anyone should have to live in such conditions (as described in this novel). And I have to agree that if we (as a nation) create a mess, we should help clean it up - to make things right where possible, within reason. It is, of course, very complicated and complex. I know that many of my readers may disagree with me, and I respect that we disagree on this issue (sending more troops to Afganistan, or being there in the first place). I'm not even sure that sending additional troops is the "right" solution.
We read a lot of books of people and families without hope in my book club. Some set in the U.S., some set in other countries (surprisingly or not, the description of poverty and hunger remains very similar). In all the novels and memoirs, the common thread of hope was education.
In each work, the main character(s) had one (or more) teachers who took an interest. The teachers (or a muslim cleric in the case of A Thousand Splendid Suns) inspired them to love learning, and to escape their circumstances. In each case, the teachers gave the students hope.
I know it's a few weeks after Thanksgiving, and most people have moved on from their lists of gratitude. But I, personally, am grateful for teachers and educators. Those who inspire a love of learning, or simply give hope where there was none.