One of the first memories I can recall from early childhood, as a kid barely able to contemplate his surroundings is about a TV show. Somewhere between the hazy clarity of an image and the reconstructed impression of a bygone past, I remember seeing on the black and white TV screen a bearded middle-aged man lifting either human parts or clothes left behind by the dead. This was not fiction and had all the requirements of reality as it is, visceral and unrefined. A large keening crowd could be heard responding to each gesture of the bearded man with a monotony of holy slogans in desperate anticipation of divine mercy. The bearded man gave details of each piece of material he lifted from the ground in a hopeful plea to find a relative to come collect the body.
This was Kabul in early 1990s. The vague contours of my memory still retain the sense of cold anxiety the spectacle of death evokes. A black and white image, a middle-aged man lifting something in an auction of unbearable human suffering. By then, the Soviets were long gone, the Soviet-backed regime was brought down in Kabul as well. An army of bearded men with all the trappings of religious zeal had taken over the city, so far as I am told and so far as I can remember.
Perhaps everyone yearned for an end to that episode that had gathered pace more than a decade ago and by then had taken at least a million victims, more than that as wounded and millions of displaced families. Perhaps everyone hoped, if they could afford the luxury of reflection amidst the numbing effects of unceasing grief, that that bearded man was officiating the last part of a violent scene on their TV screen. What no hopeful soul could guess is that after two and half decades, bearded men continue their search through the piles of unrecognizable bodies, many of them searching for signs of identification to hand over a woman to her husband, a son to mother, a sister to brother, and a child “barely able to contemplate his surroundings” to his family. Society dies gradually with each one of these victims because the specter of death looms large like an overcast firmament; every member of this society has begun dying in small parcels much earlier than they will ever realize, and the word violence seems non-violent in the face of what Afghans, and other populations fallen victim to misfortune by the accident of birth go through on daily basis.
Yet I, like many others in this society of unrestrained uncertainties of fate, have to still remain human and be capable to let someone alien into the isolated comfort of my memories; the cold catacomb of voyages each more distant than the other from the necessary quality of purity and credulity in human constitution: a requisite ignorance abetting denial behind the modest refinements and delicacies of human culture; a culture for which we crave as “children of war” but have had the hands of our inner soul and outer objectivity cut short to reach out and be able to access.
…The oppression of anonymity, the unjust casting away of yet other humans into the darkening shades of humane sentiment where they live until sentiments degrade and cease to exist; into the obscure depths of a fond afternoon reminiscence.
One is gripped by an indefinable pale grief of disbelief for what history has called us to account for. Perhaps for past wrongdoings or for a future misdemeanor that still awaits to be discovered. How many shades of haunted dreams can the reality of existence contain and tolerate without the threat of breaking away into unrecognizable detritus, reaching a moment when understanding oneself becomes a tedious process of constant reminders and follows a method, an attentive gaze, a frequent effort at preserving the inner integrity of a conscious soul in need of compassionate animation?
The eyes of cardinal human affection in us risk getting buried under layers of blood that have begun congealing with each round of senseless Abrahamic bloodbath. Yet hope is not entirely lost. What one needs is the extra strength to wipe the congealed blood clean, and be able to see the beauty of a “twilight kingdom” where the freedom of plants momentarily brings one closer to the sublime nature of incorruptible innocence.
…To concede to those dying the nobility of “liberation”, and the stature of martyrs who stood upright in the face of a barbarian onslaught… Shake their hands and hug them in a final farewell. May the victims of unrestrained violence of exonerated brutes and their urge for murderous systems of tranquilizing oblivion rest in peace.