Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Another Two Days Until The Elections Are Over

It’s raining tonight in Maryland. It feels so good, to have the humidity and the heat washed away by the storm. Now we are getting those wonderful little-stream-gurgling sounds, of raindrops dripping from heavy wet leaves, cool in the dusk. The light coming in from the very edge of sunset has colored the mist in the air with gold.

I think of how hot and dry it is in Afghanistan. The current weather for camp is: “Blowing Widespread Dust”.

I wonder what the Afghan farmers would think of rain.

I wonder what it would be like on Thursday, August 20, the day of their elections, if it rained gently on everyone.

Would they look up at the sky in wonder and delight? Or would they be afraid, because rain is not normal there? I have googled all sorts of phrases that would help me know if they have rain in that part of the world. In Bagram, they do. But in Bastion? I don’t know.

It’s a little question, but I find it comforting to think of gentle rain wetting the villages and hills, the cafes and camels, and cooling tempers and calming fear. Rain can do that.

IT IS TWO DAYS UNTIL THE ELECTION IN AFGHANISTAN. If the elections are successful, will the violence diminish greatly after that? Will people in the villages, sick of being controlled by the Taliban and in debt to them and forced to grow crops for drugs turn on the fear-mongers, and rise up against them?

Will they grow courage instead of opium poppies?

Want to hear of less suicide bombers in Thailand, in England…in America, perhaps? And definitely in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq?

Then hope and pray for a strong election, one which the Taliban CANNOT say was “fixed” by the west.

Did you know that the Taliban has put up notices threatening to cut off the finger of anyone who has ink from the voting machine on his or her finger? Or just kill them?

In a small rural town, that’s a pretty big damned threat.

Would you vote? Would you tell your loved ones to vote?

Or would you succumb to fear?

I don’t know what I would do. I would hope that I would have courage, but would I have the courage, a woman, to walk down the street election day, or the day after, knowing any Taliban man who wants could pull my hand from where it was hidden in my burka, and look for the tell-tale stain of voting ink, and cut off my finger or my hand or stab me, right there, just for casting a vote?

Would I have the courage to vote?

President Obama has ordered US military personnel to guard the polling places.

Would that give me more courage? Or would it be the block beyond the polling place where the terror would wait?

Each Afghan person must wrestle with fear and hope, with courage and cowardice. It is 4:30 am their time as I write this. They are beginning the day before the elections.

Here is a picture of young men carrying the polling booths to a remote village on the backs of donkeys: www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2009/aug/18/afghanistan?picture=351795492This is isolated.

And it creates an exercise in trust: trust and hope that each person in each dusty little town can cast their votes safely. Trust that the votes will get to the election officials safely, trust that the votes will be counted honestly.

Please offer your prayers, however you pray, that each individual of each province in Afghanistan - but especially in Taliban-controlled Helmand Province - will find courage, strength, and hope in his or her heart to go to the polls,

…and will express it in their vote.

May they find freedom, and safety and peace.

May the Afghan voters see in the eyes of the men guarding the polls the strength that freedom from fear gives.
and may they reach for that strength for their own country.

May the Taliban people, should they choose to vote, see the in the eyes of the men guarding the polls the strength that freedom from fear gives,
and may they wonder in their hearts, and inwardly yearn for that for themselves,
and may the desire for it erode the power that their fear has even over their own hearts.

May our loved ones who stand, LITERALLY, today, as representatives of freedom, stand safe.

May the members of HMH-463 fly safe.

May August 21 get here without one more life lost.

Thank you for checking in,

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