Monday, January 10, 2011

An Attack on Democracy

Democracy in Afghanistan- Governor Naeemi conducts a Provincial Development Council meeting
with members of his cabinet in addition to many District Sub-Governors
This past Sunday morning was a little different from the very beginning. While Sunday is normally my day to "sleep in" (which now qualifies as sleeping until about 7:30AM), today I set the alarm for 5AM in an effort to wake up for the Indianapolis Colts playoff match-up against the New York Jets. The Armed Forces Network would be covering the game, which started at 5:30AM local time, so a few of us loyal fans decided we would wake up a little early and head down to the office to watch the game together.

As the alarm on my iPhone sounded at 5AM, I began my typical morning routine of fumbling around for my phone in an effort to silence the alarm. After quieting the alarm, I then activated the wireless network within my phone in an effort to fetch my incoming mail. After a typical night's sleep, it's not uncommon to have 6-8 emails awaiting me as I awake on an average morning. With the 9.5 hour time change, this has grown to be one of my favorite parts of the day as I typically start my morning with many wonderful reminders of home. This morning I was shocked to see 16 emails come in. As I anxiously awaited all the messages to finish downloading into my inbox, I quickly noticed that a significant portion of my new mail was from the same sender: "Breaking News from the Washington Post". What I then began to read about the tragedy in Tucson quickly activated the feelings of grief and even anger that I'm sure many of you felt as well.

I really was in disbelief that something like this could take place on US soil. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, now an Arizona resident, echoed my thoughts as she told the New York Times: "It sounds like something that might happen in some place like Afghanistan. It shouldn't happen in Tucson." Even in a place such as Afghanistan, where violence runs rampant and bombings become a daily norm, an attack  on democracy in this scale is quite chilling. 

Isah, our interpreter, poses in front of the
beautiful gardens contained within the Governor's Compound

Another reason this horrific event hit so close to home was the realization of how easily an event like this could become copy-catted. Just this past week I had the opportunity to attend my first ever Provincial Development Council here in the Khowst Province. Governor Naeemi, the Governor of the Khost Province, uses this randomly scheduled meeting as a chance to address his cabinet members as well as the District Sub-Governors that are able to attend. I mentioned that the meeting is randomly scheduled, in the interest of security the event is only announced 2-3 days in advance and then begins a mad dash to make travel arrangements to attend the meeting which is held at the Governor's Compound in downtown Khowst City. Each of the 13 District Sub-Governors is also then forced to scramble together a plan to attend as well. While attendance at this meeting is not mandatory, it is essential for securing funding back in your home district. Every major project within the province is voted on during this meeting, so you might imagine those that aren't able to attend are often not at the top of the priority list.

What a contrast, the Governor of Khowst has to secretively schedule a meeting with his top advisers while an American member of Congress is able to meet with constituents in the parking lot of a grocery store. Can you imagine the certain melee that would ensue if Governor Naeemi tried to host an open forum with the public? As Americans, we expect access to our elected officials and for the most part we are granted such an opportunity. The heinous act committed this past weekend in Arizona exploited the very freedoms that American servicemembers are fighting for overseas. Our right to bear arms and also accessibility to our public servants took a great blow, but rest assured it wasn't a knockout punch.

In the coming weeks, the 24 hour news cycle will point fingers in every direction. Perhaps it was the lax gun laws in Arizona? What about Sarah Palin's controversial slogan of "Don't Retreat - RELOAD"? Personally, I don't think any of these brilliant newscasters will ever look deep enough into the true causes of this catastrophe. As further details emerge, do you think anyone will begin to look into life inside the Loughner family? From the few reports I've had a chance to sit down and review, it doesn't take a psychology degree to notice this young man had some tell-tale signs of mental instability that if properly addressed- might have prevented a disaster.

Looking at the current government structure on the district-level in Afghanistan, it seems hard to conceptualize a multi-party system ever existing. Many government positions actually remain unfilled within the Governor's cabinet and especially within district-level or municipal governments. The main concern in filling these positions is undoubtedly safety. Just a little over a month ago, a District Sub-Governor was killed by a suicide bomber in the neighboring Paktiya Province. Because of a desensitized populace, this assassination only carried the headlines for a few days before finally being written off as a cost of democracy.  

As we continue to pray for the victims of this heinous crime, let us also hope that with tragedy comes unity within our Congress. While I don't personally feel this crime was politically motivated, I do feel it is a great wakeup call to those serving in public office. Let's remember the great principles and strong foundation that has made the United States of America the greatest democracy this world has ever known; while also honoring the countless number of Patriots who have died fighting for this cause- most recently the six victims in Tucson.

In front of the Governor's Compound...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your reflection. A welcomed view and refreshing perspective. Love you, brother.