December 2011 Archways

Voices

Why So Quiet About War?

By Elizabeth Held ’12

Elizabeth HeldWhy is my generation so quiet about war?

I get asked that, especially by alumnae from the 1960s and ’70s. Many of them had protested the Vietnam War.

I try to explain.

My generation has grown up with war. We invaded Afghanistan when I was 11. I remember being in the seventh grade, sitting on the couch with my parents, watching the beginning of the Iraq war.

For almost half my life, the U.S. has been at war. It’s incredibly sad, but I think for a lot of us, war has become back­ground noise. We know it’s there, and something occasionally breaks through the noise to enter our consciousness, but for the most part it’s in the background.

Part of it is that there isn’t a draft this time around. War is more abstract. We don’t all know someone serving in the Middle East.

I say this as someone who checks the news multiple times a day and writes for USA Today. I’m clued in to the world around me, but the wars just aren’t my focus.

At least they weren’t until that day in July this past summer when I watched a mother bury her son, who was my age, 21. I was attending the funeral of Lance Corporal Nic O’Brien, who died while serving in Afghanistan. I was reporting on the funeral for the Gastonia Gazette, the local newspaper in Gastonia, North Carolina.

The consequences of war were suddenly apparent to me. And I knew the people around me were feeling the same way. Everyone wore the same look of shock and genuine sadness.

For the first time, U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan felt real to me.

Since then, it’s not background noise.

Elizabeth Held is a history major from Niskayuna, New York. She is currently working as a collegiate correspondent for USA Today.

Rebranding Af-Pak in South Asia

By Lamees Tanveer ’12

Lamees TanveerThe post 9/11 world has changed the political landscape of South Asia. For those growing up in Pakistan, the linguistic remapping of the region into “Af-Pak” has had a profound impact on the way the world perceives this nation of 170 million.

Since 1947, Pakistan and India, two giants born out of the same moment in history, created an equilibrium in the region. A bloody partition, three wars on the battle field, several on the cricket field and an arms race gone nuclear, the Indo-Pak brand represented the balance of power in South Asia.

As India strives for regional hegemony, the Af-Pak brand signifies a new order—one in which India remains unchallenged, the Kashmir dispute unresolved and the negotiation table empty. The rebranding of Pakistan, which the media now considers synonymous with Afghanistan, has jeopardized this balance, leaving Pakistan dangerously misunderstood.

This growing anxiety regarding the future of Pakistan ignores the inherent power and potential of its people. Few countries have given the world leaders like Benazir Bhutto, a woman who could convince the nation to vote her into office, twice.

Pakistani students have set new standards worldwide. In 2010, 250 Pakistani students were awarded the Outstanding Cambridge Learners award for exceptional performance in standardized British examinations (equivalent to high school in the U.S). Fifty-three of them had the highest scores in comparison to students from across the world.

This burgeoning Pakistani intelligentsia found in the coffee shops of Islamabad and Lahore represents the global citizen of our times who believes in the ideals of secular democracy, human rights and enlightened moderation.

Yet five letters on a policy memo can convince the world that the only difference between a war torn Afghanistan and Pakistan is a hyphen.

Lamees Tanveer is a political science major from Lahore, Pakistan.

Bryn Mawr Banter: Student Life at the College

What is it like to live in a Bryn Mawr dorm? What do you do on the weekends? How has Bryn Mawr changed you? These burning issues—and whatever else preoccupies Bryn Mawrters from day to day—are the primary subject matter of Bryn Mawr Banter, a webpage that offers a glimpse of everyday life at the College via a group of student bloggers. Diverse in terms of geography, academic interests, career aspirations, and other variables, the Banter bloggers all share a willingness to communicate the highlights and struggles of their daily lives with visitors. Readers are welcome to comment on blogs and follow Banter bloggers on Twitter and Flickr.

Join the conversation at the Bryn Mawr Banter website.

Comments on “Voices”

  1. I find Tanveer’s article highly dismissive of Afghanistan’s own cultural might and perhaps too eager to establish a distinction between it and Pakistan. Surely there is a difference between the two countries, but is it not myopic and, to borrow Tanveer’s own words, an even more dangerous misunderstanding to assert Pakistani cultural and intellectual achievements and ascribe not one second of attention more to Afghanistan’s character than to call it “war-torn”? The attitude behind such an oversight is precisely the same one that has bestowed decades of tragedy on Afghanistan, and a sorrow as great as the Afghan people’s is indeed a problem for Pakistan; it’s a problem for all of humanity. It therefore necessarily does erode the differences between countries, nations, and peoples.

    Nevertheless and needless to say, I concede unfalteringly that American media’s categorization and portrayal of the Middle East, Near East, South Asia, and probably any country one might think of, is deplorable.

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