For months I’ve been waking up to “Morning Edition” on NPR. It takes a while for my brain to swing ’round to full reality once the alarm starts, so by the time I’m actually standing up, brushing my teeth, I’ve heard all the top news stories for an hour. I usually hear them at least twice; once while I’m still asleep, and then again during my slow, but steady morning routine.
I don’t remember the day I first heard the name Benazir Bhutto or if, at the time, I was making coffee or checking my lipstick in the mirror, but I do remember stopping whatever it was I was doing, and turning up the volume on the radio. I had been caught by the word “She”. The newscaster was talking about a woman, who was a controversial leader in Pakistan. A woman. She had left the country years ago and was returning, during this report. She was received with crowds of cheering people. I remember listening so intensely, etching her name and the brief bits of history from the story into some neuro file, where I hoped it would be safe until I had a chance to find out more.
Since that first morning, in early fall, I have heard her name mentioned at least a handful of times; on “Morning Edition”, during presidential debates, and in blurbs on the evening news, but I never took the time to find out more about her story, or the story of the people she represented in Pakistan. I never formed an opinion about whether or not she was a friend to democracy. Now, Bhutto is buried, less than a week dead, and her name is rolling off tongues all over town. Questions fly nationally and internationally about what her life and now her death (which seems quite clearly to have come by assassination, but is still called a tragic accident by the Pakistani government) means to Pakistan, democracy, and of course American relationships with both.
Since last Thursday, when I first heard Bhutto was dead, I’ve read “The Kite Runner”, seen “Charlie Wilson’s War”, and started reading “Three Cups of Tea”. Each sheds light on the contemporary crises facing Afghanistan and Pakistan, and have left me wondering how I could be 26, educated, and have grown up in the era of the most recent political unrest, yet know absolutely nothing about any of it.
I feel irresponsible and arrogant, and in response, I have resolved to obtain at least a base understanding of what has been going on politically, culturally, and religiously in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the last 30 years.
I’m tired of being an American who sees something horrific and inhumane on the evening news, proclaims, “How terrible!” and then promptly gets back to eating my dinner.