Posted by Pattie on 4/14/2002 12:28:00 PM

CBC Radio did a feature this week called "AFGHANISTAN: THREADS OF HOPE" that was incredibly life-affirming. Several reporters spent time interviewing Afgahnis both in their home country and refugees living in Canada. Most of what they talked about was art, film, music, comedy, dance, fashion and freedom of speech. It struck me how much these people were willing to risk to preserve their culture.

Musicians hid their instruments and sound proofed their basements in order to have a chance to play out of the ear-shot of Taliban enforcers, even after getting caught once and being publically beaten and having all their instruments destroyed. They took this as a sign to find better hiding places and to be more careful. Not a sign to quit.

Two filmmakers hid their film in a locked basement during the entire Taliban regime. Only the two of them knew about the film. They kept the only keys. They didn't tell another soul about the storage for fear that their secret would leak to the Taliban and they would lose their film. If they had both perished in the war, the film would have been lost. If the bombs had it the building where the film was stored, it would had been lost, but they could not risk moving the film or telling anyone else about the film. After the liberation of Kabul, they met at the basement and recovered the film. 10 years they kept this secret and they were finally able to show the film in a public forum.

My first thought when I listened to these and other stories was how incredibly fortunate I am to live where I live and to have what I have. My second thought was "how dare I complain. I should consider myself damn lucky." Then I realized that this was not appropriate gratitude for all that these people had done in the face of oppression. It only serves the powers that be for me to decide that the Afgahnis are separate from me, less fortunate "others" who serve to teach me humility. I am grateful for them and for what I do have, but my fight against oppression is their fight against oppression.

One of the refugees spoke of his decision to leave Afgahnistan several years ago when the Taliban first came into power. As the violence increased, he was determined to stay until he found two bodies in the streets of his hometown. They were beheaded bodies. "I did not leave until I was convinced that I could not survive if I stayed" he told the reporter. Violence against anyone is violence against all. Those bodies warned this man of the possibilities of his life, the life chances he had. They warn us, too. Those who benefit from the status quo in power relations would have us stay in our respective places.

I am grateful to these people who held on to those things most meaningful to them, their symbols of culture, in the face of such great oppression. I am grateful because they give me strength to do the same. Knowing that no one had been beheaded YET in my former hometown is not enough to keep me from fighting against the possibility that the current violence against the oppressed (bullying, fat-hating, child-hating practices of school boards, for one example) won't lead to the killing of people in order to keep us in "our place."

In Vancouver, 55 women had to go missing before anyone did anything about it. In Canada, hundreds of native women are missing and little or nothing is done about it. In Florida, I faced violence and hostility almost daily.

Violence in any form is meant to leave us scared to fight and convinced that there are those who have absolute power over us. It was both liberating and chilling to realize that I related directly to the man who saw the beheaded bodies. My gratitude for what I have will only be expressed in a continued use of those assets to fight oppression in all its forms.