Aug 26, 2017

Stories of Eclipse from Around the World

Wouldn't be interesting if stories and reactions of people regarding the eclipse collected from the world?

That would a fascinating work because it would not only be entertaining but also enlightening and informative. People will learn about different culture and people's myths regarding the eclipse. It would also tell us about the world view of particular culture influenced by religions and traditions. I guess this would be an anthropological project for, perhaps, a Ph.D. candidate or anyone else who would be interested in folk culture and myths.

If I do this project, I would start from my father. He used to tell us stories that earth is on a giant horn of an ox. But the weight on its long horn of the ox causes its neck to hurt or ache. And that is when the earth quake happens when the ox is changing the burden from one horn to another.

When the eclipse happened, he blamed it on people's sin that evaporates like cloud in the air and rise up until it reaches the solar or moon and finally covers it. Maybe most of the stories would narrate in similar fashion, but I'm doubtful that a person in Africa or South America would think the same way that my father does. It would definitely be different and collecting stories of such myth is worth it.

Aug 23, 2017

Professor: Jesus Made the Eclipse

This man believes that Eclipse is Jesus's work. He said, he's a professor.
On Monday, August 21, more than 20,000 spectators gathered at Sanford Stadium on the University of Georgia campus for a "Blackout Eclipse Watch Party." (You can see some photos here.) When the eclipse was over and everyone was trying to make their way through throngs of people towards open areas, some encountered unexpected scenes. 

There were some individuals, like this person, who were preaching the gospel to the students. This person in the picture believed that Jesus made the eclipse. I approached him and made a tongue-in-cheek comment: "Hey, saying such thing that Jesus made the eclipse on a university campus is insulting to human intelligence," in which he answered: "Oh you are insulting me, sir!" He was obviously serious, but I was not. I left. Some students stopped by and took selfie while joking and laughing. 

This man reminded me of my father. Just a reminder for those of you who visit this blog for the first time and read this post, I was born in a far-flung village in central highlands of Afghanistan known Hazarajat. 
Every time there was a solar or lunar eclipse, my father used to tell us that it is the work of God. He used to ask us to read the Qur'an, (I used to joke with my brother that how terrifying verses of the Qur'an would be to stop God from what he likes to do) loud enough that can be heard across the planet. He himself used to weep while standing upright in front our house or sometimes on the roof for supplication. He was sad and made us sad, but we were sad because our dad was sad, not because of lunar eclipse. We had no idea what that was. Our sadness also had another element. When my father was sad, he would get irritable and difficult. We had avoid engaging with him in any sort of conversation. He would become unpredictable and that was not good. So, when the eclipse was happening, one could read from my father's face that the world was ending and we had to be careful not to contribute to it.

Yes, I grew up with such myths, that God does such and such and if you do wrong you go to hell and if you do right, you go to heaven. My father is an illiterate peasant. He can't read and can't write. But when I encounter someone blaming the eclipse on human sin and says he's a professor, I feel hopeless and sad, not for the society, but for that individual person who still lives in the dark.

Aug 22, 2017

Trump's New Strategy, a New Hope for Afghans

Tonight, President Trump, announced his long-awaited strategy on Afghanistan. He vowed to work with Afghan government, to increase the number of troops and most importantly, to pressure Pakistan into ending harboring terrorist networks in its land. Trump's new strategy will ignite hope across Afghanistan, especially among young Afghans.

Factually, this speech was by far one of the most important of Trump's speeches both historically and geopolitically. It is true that Pakistan is the nest for all sort of terrorist networks. Surprisingly, these terrorist networks are controlled and administrated by the Pakistani intelligence service ISI and the army. We all know that the ISI was complicit in harboring Bin Laden for years and we also know that the 2008-Mumbai attacks were carried out by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist network based in Pakistan. Trump has put his finger on the pulse of the problem in Afghanistan. That is that the Pakistan must end its support for the Taliban.

Trump's words tonight will reverberate across Afghanistan, especially among the youth. The exodus of Afghan refugees to Europe since 2014 was as a result of U.S. troops drawdown by the Obama administration. It was a mistake. Obama's speech in 2014 on troops drawdown like a bolt of thunder among Afghan people, especially the young ones. It left them weakened and terrified because in the absence of U.S. presence, the Taliban can run over the capital overnight. Currently, Afghan security forces are so ill-equipped and inadequately trained to take over the country's security.

However, Trump did not specify how many troops he will send to Afghanistan. Nevertheless, whatever number it would, it will boast the morale of Afghan government, its security forces and most importantly it will diminish the fear of living under stress and threats from the Taliban among Afghan people.

Finally, this new strategy will also ease the anxiety of U.S. ally, especially some of European countries that are being inundated with Afghan refugees. Trump's speech tonight was a promise that the U.S. will not leave Afghan people alone. Any troop surge on Afghanistan will enhance security and Afghans would be reluctant taking long and perilous journey to Europe. 

Aug 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse in Athens, GA

In a few minutes, we will have a complete solar eclipse in Georgia. A a few minutes ago, I was sitting outside the Journalism Department preparing for my tomorrow's class. A little girl who was playing at the lawn came to me and asked me if I need eclipse glasses. I said yes and thanked her. She was jolly and sprang back to her mom across the lawn. A minuter later she returned with a pair of eclipse glasses.

This reminded me of my childhood in far the far-flung of the central highlands of Afghanistan. I remember we had a few solar eclipse and moon eclipse in our village. It was different. We were told that our sin has blurred the sun or the moon. We felt guilty. So we had to go through various rituals of repentance and when the eclipse was over, we were relieved. We believed that our prayers helped the eclipse go away. I will write more on the eclipse in another post, but here is a photo of me prepared for the eclipse. I'm excited to watch the nature's beautiful event. I must stop this line here otherwise I miss the eclipse.

There were more than 20,000 spectators at Sanford Stadium at UGA
I hate to take selfie but well, this time I loved it @ Sanford Stadium at UGA

May 22, 2017

How do You Feel When Strangers Touch Your Hair?

Yesterday, I took a stroll in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. On my way out from the Silver Spring library, on Wayne Avenue, a group of African-American teenagers was walking towards me. I was not paying attention much as I was approaching them. Then suddenly one of them who looked a tad lanky moved towards me and said: "How you doin?" "Fine," I said. Then the same person touched my hair and in a funny tone he said: "Nice hair." I said thank you. His friends laughed gleefully.  I think there were maybe five or six of them. 

I don't know what they had in mind and why one of them took his courage in both hands to touch my hair. I was quite amused, honestly. I was a bit in hurry otherwise I would ask them why they touched my hair. As I kept walking, I began thinking that maybe these kids had something else in mind. I have heard that sometimes African-Americans are annoyed by white people when they touch their hair, which I don't know why, maybe out of curiosity. I was wondering if this kid was taking vengeance. After all I am not a Caucasian, my features resemble Asian. Anyway, I was amused by their loopy behavior. 

May 19, 2017

Are We Falling into Mental Trap of Negativism?

It is true that Afghanistan has been engulfed in an atmosphere of racism and hate, and it is also true that the victim has always been the Hazaras. They have long been persecuted, but now we are living in a new era and the Hazaras have a better place than before. Though they are not religiously and racially persecuted, still they experience a great deal of discrimination and unfair treatment in various ways in their home country. Having said that, after their non-violent reform movement hit by a series of suicide attacks that left at least 97 dead and more than 250 injured, there has been growing anger filled with assortments of antigovernment rhetoric and confrontational lineups among some Hazara intellectuals inside and outside Afghanistan that could be interpreted differently.

The Internet, especially Facebook has provided a platform for this group to express their anger and dislike of Ashraf Ghani's government in many forms. In their eyes, the current administration has become so lenient towards the Taliban and too Pashtun-centric that it has allocated most of foreign resources to Pashtun areas where every investment project went to waste. They are probably right. Most of foreign assistance spent on public infrastructure like schools, hospitals that bridges in volatile areas where the Taliban burned them down. In contrast, they argue that investment and reconstruction in most peaceful areas like in central Afghanistan where mostly Hazara people live is either ignored or spent dearth of what has spent in the south or other parts of Afghanistan.

However, this is not what the tittle of this post suggests. While, to some degree, I do believe that resources for the past 16 years have been wasted and of course Hazarajat has been neglected, I think the statements that nowadays some Hazara intellectuals make against the government indicates a great degree of intolerance and bias. For instance, a few days ago when Ghani went to Bamiyan for inauguration of the second phase of North-South corridor connecting Dare-e-Suf district to Yakawlang district in neighboring Bamiyan province, they reacted with deep ambivalence about believing or accepting what has finally been taking place in Hazarajat. Instead of celebrating and welcoming the project, many Facebook users criticized Ashraf Ghani for carrying a Hazara little girl on his shoulders as a cunning scheme to outwit the Hazaras by showing sympathy while doing nothing.

This is the very reason that I wrote my previous blog post in opposition to a protest in front of the Asian Developing Bank building in Washington D.C. planned for May 22. I have noticed that some of these individuals unequivocally reject what has so far been achieved. Such protests would be beneficial if campaigners would not presuppose their statements based on anger and resistance, but factual information which would help the observer to pay attention to their cause. Maintaining negative attitudes towards everyone and everything the government does, not only overshadows the prospect of future nonviolent movements, but also creates sentiment that would echo racism and prejudice. Racism plus power is dangerous but racism minus power could also be menacing and that is the one thing from which we must stay away.