Abraham Lincoln said he chose to not be a master because he would not choose to be a slave. Life is better if we get to make the choices for ourselves. We may choose unwisely but we would rather be wrong than be told what we can do. Independence of thought is usually within our control but independence of actions, for some, may depend on the largesse of others. Should we lose our independence when we have lived free for years it would be difficult to adjust. Afghanistan comes to mind. Afghanistan? Hey, folks, these columns do not need to be logical, they only need to be in writing. But it is not only the independence of women in Afghanistan that is my current concern but the independence of my older sister in Missouri.
Jane is currently in a hospital bed waiting the results of an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) test after her most recent fall. When we talked by phone this morning she spoke those dreaded words each of us may someday face, “This may be the end of my independent living.” Janie’s husband of more than fifty years passed away in 2012. She led a full life of public service before Bruce left her and has continued on her own until now. Janie has always been the go-to person for others to get things done. I fear an adjustment may now be required.
Janie grew up with three brothers. While our parents both worked outside our home, Janie used her good sense to keep our oldest brother on task and her two younger brothers from mayhem. Unfortunately, she moved out when she got married and left us to fend for ourselves. Now it may turn out she can no longer render assistance to others and may need help herself. I question whether such a paradigm shift will be a positive development. On the other hand, Janie has always done for herself as she did for others, or in her brothers’ cases, to others, so she may very well be back in charge of her life soon.
But let’s return to Afghanistan. When our soldier son spent a short portion of his Iraq war-time service in Afghanistan he became convinced the Afghan people held several loyalties higher than that to the country of Afghanistan. Jim concluded the Afghan men he met, he had no contact with women, were loyal first to their families, next to their particular tribe of which there are many, then to their religion and finally to what Americans call the nation of Afghanistan.
America has done for nation building in Afghanistan about what we did from 1492 until modern times “for” Native Americans. We must be slow learners. On the other hand, the Crusaders also sought to impose their religion on the Middle East. We may see ourselves in the faces of the male Taliban “infidels”.
I was raised by an independent mother and an independent sister. My wife, Peg, fits right in with them. When cable news shows Afghan females being returned to the times before our American invasion, I cannot but think of how I would feel if in their place. President Lincoln said it and I believe it. Of course, I also believe others should have the right to practice or not practice religion as they choose. So, I suppose I will continue to resent the TV images as I hope for Janie to be able to continue her independence and for Afghan females to find the same rights.