Friday, August 9, 2013

Change, Pakistan, and Captain America: My Take

Steve Rogers is a comic book character brought to life by Marvel Entertainment and Paramount Pictures. In the last scenes of "Captain America: The First Avenger" he runs from a reasonable facsimile of a 1940s hospital room into New York City's 21st century Times Square.

I think Chris Evans does a good job of mimicking the response of a stressed-out WWII soldier fast-forwarding through about 70 years in maybe seven minutes: tops.

Bear with me. This post belongs in this blog.

I remember most of the decades between WWII and today. This is not the world I grew up in. Technology, customs, and social structures have been changing: a lot. I still haven't quite gotten used to the idea of addressing other adults by their first names.

But 'no complaints.' Change happens.

Abram to Anheuser-Busch in One Generation

Growing up in America, I've been spared some culture shock. My ancestral cultures started changing a thousand years ago, picked up the pace five centuries back, and started the industrial revolution.

I remember the first artificial satellite, and the days when computers used vacuum tubes. Change 'normal' for me.

I have a little sympathy for folks who grew up with hand-woven tents and camels: and whose kids probably know about designer jeans and know the difference between iPhone and Android.

They're experiencing more change than I have: and grew up expecting life to go on as it had since before Abram moved out of Ur. Small wonder that some aren't comfortable with today's world.

That's not an excuse for killing neighbors, though.

Killing Pakistanis

(Naseer Ahmed, via Reuters, used w/o permission)

This man was arriving at a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan. He is one of 27 injured outside a mosque today. Nine folks are dead, but they may not have been the attack's target.

Provincial government minister Ali Mohammad Jattack was driving by the mosque when a few folks started shooting - apparently in the general direction of his car. Other folks who had been worshiping at the mosque may have just been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Reuters says that Pakistanis have been killing each other more often than usual recently, following a new Prime Minister's election. The implication is that there's a cause-effect relationship, which may be true.

The attacks aren't random. Shi'ite Muslims, a minority in Pakistan, get injured or killed by Sunni Muslims who apparently don't approve of Shi'ites. It's pretty obvious that not all Sunni Muslims in Pakistan feel this way, or there wouldn't even be a Shi'ite minority.

Killing Americans

Meanwhile, the American State Department closed offices in Pakistan, and says that Americans who don't need to be in Pakistan shouldn't go there.

I believe news reports that say that the State Department's actions about Pakistan aren't related to the other embassy closings, a few days ago. More accurately, I accept the idea that the same groups or individuals aren't trying to kill Americans in all these places.

In another way, what's going on in Pakistan and elsewhere around the world is part of something the American government stopped calling the war on terror when the current administration moved in.

Whatever we call it, I'm quite certain that those of us who don't mind living in the 21st century still have to be careful.

Making Changes

Folks who quite sincerely hate what's been happening during the last few centuries will probably continue to kill their neighbors, or die trying. I do not think that the most rigidly dedicated supporters of an ancient way of life will change their minds. But their followers, and their children, are another matter.

Quite a few folks in Iraq seemed convinced that foreigners were evil,. or at least decided that being alive was better than disagreeing with an Al Qaeda boss. Then a UN-backed coalition upset the status quo.

Once the 'evil' foreigners killed enforcers who'd been chopping off heads, and started repairing neglected roads and sewage plants: many Iraqis decided that being free was a good idea.

That must have been terribly frustrating for Iraqis who enjoyed the privilege of killing 'bad' neighbors: but no society is perfect for everybody.

Looking Ahead

Naming a similar phenomenon in northern Africa "Arab spring" isn't making the transition from a pre-Magna Carta world into the Information Age easy. But I'm still cautiously hopeful about places like Egypt.

As for what's happening this week in Pakistan: that's bad news for folks who get killed and injured, and hard on their families. It would be nice if everyone in the world would decide to be nice, and try discussing problems instead of killing folks who disagree. That's not gonna happen. Not soon, anyway.

On the other hand, I'm convinced that most folks prefer raising families, going to work, and playing soccer - or whatever the local pastime is - to dodging bullets and cleaning up after suicide bombers.

'Winning the hearts and minds' may be a cliche by now, and simply won't work for diehard xenophobes of any ilk. But like I said, I'm cautiously hopeful. I think most of us can learn that 'foreigners' aren't demonic emissaries, and that 'change' doesn't mean 'destruction.'

Related posts:

"Gunmen in Pakistan kill nine in attack at mosque on Muslim holiday"
Katharine Houreld; (editing, Clarence Fernandez and Robert Birsel; Reuters (August 9, 2013)

"Volence marred the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Fitr in Pakistan on Friday with gunmen killing nine people in the city of Quetta while a guard in the capital Islamabad shot dead a would-be suicide bomber forcing his way into a mosque.

"The United States has ordered non-essential staff to leave its consulate in the eastern city of Lahore because of the threat of attack. It has also warned its citizens not to travel to Pakistan.

"In Quetta, gunmen fired on the vehicle of a politician driving past worshippers leaving a mosque, killing nine people and wounding 27, police said.

"Quetta is capital of the southwestern province of Baluchistan, where several militant groups are active, including the Pakistani Taliban, who claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack that killed 30 people at a policeman's funeral on Thursday.

"Police official Bashir Brohi said Friday's shooting seemed to have been aimed at former provincial government minister Ali Mohammad Jattack, who was passing by in a vehicle, but the motive and perpetrators were not clear.

" 'I was the target,' Jattack told media at the scene.

" 'They killed innocent worshippers belonging to different communities. This is against humanity, it is brutality on the level of animals,' said Jattack, who was not hurt.

"Brohi said most of the victims were coming out of the mosque.

" 'It was an armed attack on the former minister ... it was not an attack on the mosque,' the police official said.

"In a separate attack in Islamabad, a would-be suicide bomber shot dead a guard and wounded three people as he tried to force his way into a Shi'ite mosque, said witness Raza Mohammad....

"...Attacks against Pakistan's minority Shi'ite Muslims, by Sunni Muslim militants, are increasing sharply.

"The attacks on Friday were the latest in a surge of militant violence since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office two months ago, with a string of high-profile incidents in the past two weeks...."

"US withdraws staff from consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, over terror threat" (August 9, 2013)

"The State Department has ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel from the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore, Pakistan, and has warned Americans to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan after a specific threat to that mission, Fox News confirms....

"...'The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan,' the statement from the State Department read. 'The Government of Pakistan maintains heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities. Threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where U.S. citizens and Westerners are known to congregate or visit.'

"The personnel drawdown at the Lahore consulate was a precautionary measure and wasn't related to the recent closures of numerous U.S. diplomatic missions in the Muslim world, two U.S. officials told the Associated Press...."

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.