by Naomi Ishisaka
Copyright ColorsNW Magazine
“Giving kids clothes and food is one thing but it’s much more important to teach them that other people besides themselves are important, and that the best thing they can do with their lives is to use it in the service of other people.” – Dolores Huerta, United Farm Workers leader (1930- )
Since the 1970s, the term “Afghanistanism” was used in U.S. newsrooms to describe regions of the world that were so remote and foreign, there was no reason to report about them because Americans had no interest in their people and events. Afghanistan was supposed to represent a country so removed from our consciousness that to even think about it would be nearly absurd.
Yet after 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, the importance of South Asia to the stability of the region and Bush’s “war on terror,” it is the idea that any place in the world should be completely ignored that is truly absurd. While the U.S. continues to be a largely insular and ethnocentric nation in relation to foreign policy and natural resources, we have seen that being ignorant of the world around us only leads to our greater vulnerability.
After the Asian tsunami, it seemed that Americans were beginning to get the message that we are part of an interconnected world community. Americans gave generously, donating millions of dollars privately for relief. Eight weeks after the tsunami, the UN World Food Program was 80 percent funded for the disaster. Yet the recent earthquake in Pakistan raises the question of whether Afghanistanism is rearing its ugly head again. Eight weeks after the earthquake, which killed a staggering 80,000 people, only 30 percent of the UN goal had been raised for the disaster. Could it be that the remote mountains of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir seem too far removed to care?
For local South Asians, the answer was no. Seeing the ongoing, desperate need of their fellow Pakistanis and South Asians, they jumped to action. As Laila Kazmi writes in this month’s cover story, they raised money, collected goods and brought shelter to some of the millions of people left homeless. We hope their story will serve as an inspiration to others.