I recently posted on my "articles" page an essay I wrote for another place a while ago. "Bidding the Buddha Goodbye" is essentially my feelings and reminiscences of the stark beauty and peace I found on a visit to Bahmian as a child in 1972 - following the year of the Indo-Pakistani war that gave birth to Bangladesh.
I was compelled to post it now because, as fate would have it, two excellent writers with noble goals have recently been promoting their work to help war torn Afghanistan and violence-wracked Pakistan. I'm talking, of course, about Khaled Hosseini, a fellow kite fighter in his youth, and Greg Mortenson.
Years ago - now that I'm near the point where I'm willing to concede "middle-age" - 50 - as a college student, one of my best and favorite professors helped inspire me to become a writer and a journalist and especially a foreign correspondent. His name is John T. McNally. He had a firm conviction in the idea that "if information doesn't cross borders, soldiers will."
He taught at a time before "journalists" found the need to surround themselves with body guards, or the U.S. military was concerned for the safety of "embeds." He taught and lived at a time when journalists - mostly young, single and ambitious, as we all were at the beginning - took risks to be eyewitnesses to history (to borrow a term from Theodore H. White, a great foreign and war correspondent in his own right and in his own time).
We get very little information these days from locations where someone's sons and daughters are dying. The costs to the organizations that fielded correspondents - many of them now bankrupt or nearing it - is too great considering how little the "extra" or "exclusive" adds to the corporate bottom line, because most of the audience is no longer interested.
I've worked with people who took the risks. I've known of people who paid the price - and whose family must remain forever incomplete - because of it.
And I admire those "brave, not timid, souls," like the two writers I mentioned who have great enough compassion to help rebuild through education what I was fortunate enough to see as a beautiful, magnificent and at the time advancing country.
The last time I saw Afghanistan, it was a Kingdom. And the last time I saw Bahmian, it remained peaceful under the watchful eye of the Buddha of Compassion. I realized when the Taliban - really just the name for religious students - destroyed the Buddha, no good could come of it.
But, hearing from Khaled Hosseini about his new foundation, and of the work of Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute, perhaps I was wrong. Imagine helping women and children in those places emerge from the rubble that was two great nations to rebuild and rejoin the race that, when political or financial interest wanes, has abandoned them as nameless and faceless and in the current economic climate, somehow less worthy of concern or attention. I'm talking about, of course, the human race - the only race that, anthropologically speaking, truly exists.
"If information doesn't cross borders" - in either direction.
Causes Terin Miller Supports
Civil and Human Rights.
Amnesty International; March of Dimes; Operation Smile; Medicines Sin Fronteras; UNICEF