My Night, Your Morning, Our World: Response to the December 16th Attacks in Peshawar

If you wake up on a Tuesday morning in New York – the sun barely risen, the sounds of garbage trucks screeching outside the window, and everything feels … normal, but in Pakistan children lay in tiny coffins and hospital beds are filled with elementary students, hanging on to the last threads of life, do you feel it? Even though everything around looks normal, it smells like a Tuesday, and the trains come just as late as any other day. Do you feel some prick of evil on your shoulder?

How about when it happened? Tuesday morning in Pakistan is Monday night in New York. The moment a Taliban gunman aimed and fired at a two year-old, did you have some inexplicable need to stir? For some reason, as you flicked through TV channels, you paused and looked at your hand poised on the remote, so eager to drown your thoughts in cheap entertainment, and wondered why you couldn’t press the channel button all of the sudden.

I have never believed in time zones or geography for that matter. What happens on this earth, happens to all of us; we breath the same air and see the sun in the exact way at which it appears at any given moment. Borders are a human construct, just like Mickey Mouse and Disney Land, so I cringe when I hear people refer to other countries as corrupt or utter the ever present phrase such and such only happens in that country. Like everyone else, I didn’t choose to be born in the United States, it just kind of happened. I could just have easily been born in Iran, Zimbabwe, France, Thailand, so I don’t consider my citizenship anything more than a privilege. When I hear/read about tragedies such as the recent attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan I can’t detach myself from trying to absorb every ounce of terror that the victims felt. I do this often when tragedy strikes somewhere and I have come to realize that if I don’t consume myself with trying to connect with the victim’s suffering, I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. I’m terrified of becoming the type of person who refuses to understand what it is like in “other” countries where “bad things happen.”

We tend to think that distance is a major factor in what separates us from them in times of natural disaster, terrorism, war, etc. But we’re all traversing the same ground, treading the same water, for what separates a river from an ocean from a channel is simply our minds. If people want a barrier, all they have to do is imagine it and it becomes a place to contemplate, to question, to fight over.

Have you ever looked at a map of the world “backwards”? I have. It changes everything. When you look at it this way, you realize that Alaska and Russia are lovers separated by family disputes, Hawaii has nothing to do with the U.S.A, and the “civilized” west is populated by Algeria, Mali, and Saudi Arabia. When I look at the map this way, it helps me to remember that I am only as far away from poverty and war stricken countries as my mind allows.

What was I doing on December 16th, 2014 around 1:00 am EST while children in Peshawar were watching their teacher being set on fire? Sleeping. And I can’t remember a single one of my dreams.