Saturday, January 12, 2008

Making Schools, Not War

Kathie and her family visited us here in Charleston over Christmas. As always, we had such a good time! It was so nice to finally meet Isabella, a proud and strong little woman of 5.

Isabella and her mom stayed at Jessie's house and Kathie stayed with Kelly and me. Of course, Kathie cooked for us - some yummy shrimp scampi that she just "threw" together one evening and a wonderful moussaka for Christmas Day. (We like to have international menus for Christmas.)

While she was here, Kathie and I went to see the movie "Charlie Wilson's War", starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. This is how Fandango describes the movie, which is based on a true story: "Charlie Wilson, an alcoholic womanizer and Texas congressman, persuaded the CIA to train and arm resistance fighters in Afghanistan to fend off the Soviet Union. With the help of rogue CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos, the two men supplied money, training and a team of military experts that turned the ill-equipped Afghan freedom-fighters into a force that brought the Red Army to a stalemate. However, the result also empowered the Taliban and terrorists including Osama bin Laden."

The part this description leaves out is the ending (and if you haven't seen the movie but plan to, skip the rest of this paragraph). With the help of American dollars appropriated by our Congress at the request of Charlie Wilson, the Afghanis have driven the Soviets from their country. Charlie is shown meeting with a US congressional committee to request more money, only this time the money is for educating the Afghanis. His request is turned down.


Kathie gave me two terrific gifts for Christmas - a Crate and Barrel gift card (ooh, they have cool stuff!) and a Netflix subscription. The first movie I selected for my queue was "Syriana". Yes, the movie's a few years old but I had never seen it, even though George Clooney and Matt Damon star in it (two of my "boyfriends", as Kathie calls her favorite hunky-boy actors, singers, whatever).

FYI - "Syriana" is loosely based on Robert Baer's memoir See No Evil, an account of his time in the CIA.

When the DVD showed up in my mailbox a couple of days later, I ripped it open and watched it. Chaos and confusion! There are at least four story lines going on in Syriana, a bit like "Crash". I finished watching the movie, thought about it overnight, then decided to look it up on Wikipedia. Armed with a better understanding of the individual plots, I watched the movie again. My confusion was much reduced this time - but not completely!

The subplot that I did understand from the very beginning was the one about the two young Pakistani men who are laid off from their jobs in an oil field (Iranian?) that has just been bought by a Chinese company. This is how Wikipedia describes it: "Since the company has provided food and lodging, the workers face the threat of poverty and deportation due to their unemployed status. Wasim desperately searches for work. Wasim and his friend join an Islamic school to learn Arabic in an effort to improve their employment prospects. While playing soccer, they meet a charismatic blue-eyed Muslim fundamentalist cleric, who eventually leads them to execute a suicide attack on a Connex-Killen LNG tanker using a shaped-charge explosive from the missing Tehran missile." OK, so that last bit about the missile is from one of the other plots. Keep up.

So, all the young Pakistani guys really wanted was a job.


When I talked with Kathie the weekend after Christmas, she mentioned a book that all of San Diego is reading this year, entitled Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time. I just finished reading it last night. If you read only one book this year, make sure this is the one. And be sure to buy it from Amazon through this link. Essentially, this New York Times bestseller is about a mountain climber/RN who has dedicated his life to building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Well into the book, he talks about how some kids in these countries have been drawn in to extremist Islamic schools - simply because there are no other schools available.

Double hmmmm.

Back in September of 2001, I talked with a nun friend about the horrific World Trade Center catastrophe. I expressed to her my concern that, in our pain and shock, we would skip a collective soul search for underlying causes and pass right on to a kneejerk military reaction. After all, "What would Jesus do?" I asked her.

Sister Renee, who lives in Philadelphia and works with people who lost relatives and friends in the Trade Centers, responded that the Catholic Church recognizes "justifiable war". As much as I respected her, and maybe because of my respect, I was sorely disappointed by her answer.

I guess I'll read another of Kathie's recommendations next: The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.


Katharine said...

Hm-m-m. To paraphrase one of my hunky boyfriends, "there's a whole lot of thinkin' goin' on here". Perhaps our cause for the Hadrian Wall Walk should be the Central Asia Institute.

Kappa no He said...

So glad to see you guys back! Hope you are having a very lovely 2008.

I will definitely put "Three cups of Tea" on my buy list.

"justified war".... *sigh*

Sonnjea B said...

Hmmm, indeed. I've been meaning to read Three Cups of Tea since last summer. Now you've pushed me over the edge - I'm going to the library for it on Monday!

I'm glad to see you back, too

Pam said...

I've heard that Three Cups of Tea is excellent - I definitely need to put it on my list.

Sounds like you had a nice holiday!