John Patten
Photos from Afghanistan

    Ugh. I will have to write everything about that holiday at another time. Have to get back to Kabul in the
    morning and then Mazar. My girlfriend was kidnapped in Bali and held for eight hours while she should
    have been waiting for me. At least she was ok, but was still held, beaten, and robbed at ATMs of all her
    savings to the tune of three thousand dollars. I spent the whole time trying to force an investigation and
    really wanted to find and kill the bastards that did this, but we were not able to find them. Now still have to
    push it through consulates. I didn’t get that much needed holiday and will write all about it when I’m not so
    drained. In Bangkok alone the following week, at least I did relax a bit and walk around the city, nice hotel,
    not too strenuous, but still had to deal with it all. I sometimes think our lives have gotten a bit out of hand.
    Most couples do not have to deal with shelling, machine gun fire, kidnapping, stakeouts, etc. It sounds like
    we’re making shit up.

    I did meet some cool Canadians my last night sitting on Khaosan road in the backpacker slum section of
    Bangkok and had some fruitful political discussions, which turned out better than sitting at the Volkswagen
    bus bar getting crocked on Chang. Wait, I did get crocked on Chang, but we did reach some agreement. I
    complimented my new friends for not wearing Canadian flags on everything. They were really switched on.
    I wasn’t after having my first spliff in years with them (once again, I need to get out more), but the taxi ride
    back to the hotel was great and I saw Bangkok in a whole new light, or was that my retinas? It was at least
    a break from my own running thoughts. It’s a good thing that I never had a trust fund and a life of exquisite
    boredom. I would have been a happy drunk and stoner (or an international parasite) wandering around
    the world wondering why we all just can’t get along.


    First day back in Mazar. Glad to be home actually. Sometimes people come back after holiday and feel like
    they never left. I feel like I left, but still need one. Lots of work now to sort through. Trying to keep my
    sense of humor, though still playing in my mind what happened to Eriko. The fates conspired to keep me
    away in a strange sequence of events, so I’m wondering what it means or what the purpose was. When I
    was landing in Bali I ran back to the plane to get my missing money belt that I was sure was no longer on
    me. I got back there only to find it on me, it had just switched sides. I’m usually more organized. That only
    took five minutes, but because the rest of the plane got in the immigration line ahead of me, it cost me
    those twenty minutes in which I missed Eriko, when I was arriving at the hotel and she went out alone.
    Later at 7 pm while she was with those bastards they made her call me to get more money, but I was
    pacing outside looking for her. I missed that call by five minutes. I wonder what it all means.

    I cut a lot out of that last section. At the time it was so fresh and I was so angry, it was understandable why
    I was having such ugly thoughts such as how it’s possible to want to kill another person. I don’t think it’s
    anything someone can get around. If circumstances are such any normal person can be pushed too far.
    Time and perspective helps, if only to be thankful it didn’t come to that and I can live another day without
    ever having gone down that road. We all need support, but God if I didn’t look for them hard that week. It
    influenced successive passages as I was back in Afghanistan and hadn’t really gone through a process to
    be at peace with the whole thing. I had lost some patience and tolerance of some situations, which I was
    trying hard to get back. When it comes to Islam again below, the thoughts were coming from a variety of
    publications, often from the Arab scholars.


    I don’t understand foreign women here who embrace Islam. I think that just as a teen rejects their parent’s
    beliefs or values wholesale to embrace something else, they haven’t made any more of a real choice
    either. It’s less an embrace of something new than problems they had with what they thought was old or
    irrelevant to their lives. I wonder if they are aware of the new UN report, written by Arab scholars, which
    discusses why the Arab world is so messed up. It’s not because of the “infidels.” It’s because of their own
    choices. You can’t have women, who are 50% of your society, not able to have any rights, education, or
    voice. How many cultures have the analogy of a bird not being able to fly with only one wing? Or most of
    the regular men as well. Combine that with the Muslim countries overall discouraging creative thought,
    innovation, freedom, and education, and what do you have to build on? There is a huge disconnect
    between what people think Islam ideally and fundamentally is all about and how it is being put to practice in
    today's societies.

    At least there are some Arab scholars discussing these issues. It was not like that throughout history, so
    what happened? Even this culture here is so steeped in tradition that thought is more for reporting rather
    than questioning critically and changing. Islam seems to be the only way for men to have a sense of self or
    strength, but it has been corrupted by the increasingly angry people that need to blame the West instead
    of looking inward. If the politically correct lobby actually studied the Koran, of which they have very limited
    knowledge, they wouldn’t find it a book of tolerance. It seems rigid, intolerant and not open to
    interpretation or discussion, at least through the eyes of many modern-day practitioners. Most Christians
    do not believe the text in their book is literal dictation. At the very least it preaches tolerance of other
    people. It’s some of the practitioners that screw it up. The Muslim leaders are very often ignorant and
    corrupt men. Yet they must really be afraid of women to control everything about their individual lives from
    birth to death. First the father or brother, then the husband. I certainly don’t see anyone around with a
    sense of joy believing in Islam or God. It seems more about duty, tradition, fear, and things ground in
    humanity rather than spirit. What were rich cultures previously seem to have a sense of being dead
    hanging over them. You can feel it on the street, in all of the buildings, certainly near religious schools and
    mosques. It’s a feeling of being devoid of spirit, like it all died centuries ago but we’re still here moving
    around market goods and trying to pretend things are ok by going for an ice cream on the street.
    Something is wrong. Sometimes I have that same feeling at Starbucks. But they put something in the
    frappechino that makes it go away.

    All the good people here are so constrained by their access; access to travel, advancement, opportunities,
    everything. I am not trying to put a judgment on the cultures, rather if you talk to people the issues come
    out from them. Something went as awry as anything we discuss about where our culture went off the track.
    But I have access at least to change my situation if I don’t like it. I’m sick of hearing stories from Pakistan,
    Saudi Arabia, and others where 15 girls die in a burning building because the vice cops wouldn’t let them
    out without a veil, women having acid pour on them because they didn’t make the right dinner, gang-rapes
    as a sentence by “councils of elders.” Now in Nigeria they want to stone a woman for becoming pregnant?
    What about the guy? This happens every day outside world newspapers and many men have a very
    warped sense of what it means to be a man or woman. Note to Islamic Republics: You will never develop a
    decent human standard of living for your people unless you get over this type of anti-human behavior. And
    yes, your government is backward until then. Don’t start every sentence with, “Well in the West…” Try to
    focus on your people in power and your own culture first before you go looking to blame someone in
    Kansas that never heard of you either. There has to be a point when people say c’mon, enough is enough
    of such relativism. Simple understanding or awareness is only a first step. Some growth and change has to
    back it up.

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