The Common Good
March-April 2002

Beep Beep

by Ed Spivey Jr. | March-April 2002

Since Sojourners is a bimonthly magazine, you depend on us to cover the breaking news, with up-to-the-minute commentary on hot stories like Afghanistan which, by the time you ...

Since Sojourners is a bimonthly magazine, you depend on us to cover the breaking news, with up-to-the-minute commentary on hot stories like Afghanistan which, by the time you read this, should be well on its way to becoming an independent democracy.

Or not.

As Afghanistan's newly appointed leaders gather to rebuild their nation, we are confident that a lasting peace will endure for, oh, at least a week or two. Forgive my lack of confidence, but let's face it, when most of the guys in charge have the word "warlord" on their business cards, it gives us pause. Afghans themselves are taking a wait-and-see—formerly, wince-and-cower—attitude since their new leaders look suspiciously like some of the folks that, on a daily basis, used to poke them with sticks and ask with a beard-enhanced brusqueness, "Why aren't you in church?"

"Tribal leader" is another phrase you hear a little too often over there, and it's not very reassuring when it shows up on a politician's résumé. It means that, at a meeting to decide what the nation should export besides shrapnel wounds, one of the new guys could whip out a Kalashnikov and demand a bigger cubicle. (For those of you who, like me, once thought Kalashnikov was the respected Russian playwright who penned "The Cherry Something," that's why you got a "C" on your college literature test. The correct answer, of course, is Chekov, which everybody else got right. Unless you were sitting next to future president George W. Bush, who at that moment was distracted by the fact that if he didn't return the empty kegs by 3 p.m. his fraternity would lose its deposit money. When he did finally answer the question, he wrote "Mr. Spock" who everyone knows is WAY smarter than that Chekov dude.)

But what was I saying?

Oh yes, my George Will-like commentary on the war in Afghanistan (or, as FOX News refers to it, "AMERICAATWAR!") [flecks of saliva added for emphasis].

Not to name names, but the guy we're most worried about in the new government is Mohammed "You Talkin' to ME?" Fahim. He was appointed defense minister since it would be an easy transition from his previous job: ruthless killer. But that's one of the problems you have in a country where "road improvement" means putting down more land mines: Most of the top guys are thugs. And it goes without saying that you can't ask the women to help out, because all they'd do is promote education and human rights and pretty soon you've got rampant human dignity and, trust me, that's NO way to lead a nation back to the Middle Ages.

In fairness, the head of Afghanistan's new government, Hamid Karzai, is a respected negotiator, and he speaks English. And as any American can tell you, being foreign and speaking English is the best way to cultivate America's trust, since our diplomats don't have to talk loudly to be understood. So it's that much easier to get down to the business of nation-building, especially the part where we loan them bombs and money. But mainly bombs.

THE GOOD news, of course, is that the Taliban is on the run, Osama bin Laden has that real tired look of a guy working double overnights at the Stop 'n' Shop, and al Qaeda's reign of terror has been reduced to a pony-tailed drifter with a pair of Acme Exploding Shoes. (And, as any kid knows, this never once worked for Wile E. Coyote, no matter how many times he tried. In related news, federal air marshals preoccupied with inspecting an elderly woman's knitting bag failed to notice two suspicious men boarding a flight to Atlanta, one carrying a large boulder-flinging catapult and another man with a giant rocket tied to his back. Neither made it on board, however, since both somehow managed to fall off a cliff before reaching the aircraft.)

But the point is, the modern world is finally winning out in Afghanistan. Just days after Kabul was freed, men were able to shave their beards and for the first time in years taste the sweet fruits of freedom, which, for your average Afghanistan guy, is apparently movie posters from India. Who knew? (Hey, I don't make up the news, I just report it.) And women, who for the past five years were forced to remain indoors, cook and clean, and keep their heads covered, were able to finally show their faces outside. But then they had to go back home and cook and clean. And put up their husbands' new posters.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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