Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Khaled Hosseini”

An Iraqi Veteran Against the War

I had a conversation with an ex-soldier who served in Iraq at my local coffee shop last week. I saw a sticker on his laptop, which said “Iraq Veterans Against The War” and struck up a conversation.

The first thing that hit me was his suspicion about why I was asking. It took a while to establish that I am a caffeine-addicted blogger and not an undercover MP or a reporter, despite wearing a necktie (I did score points for it being a Jerry Garcia tie). A number of times throughout the conversation I needed to confirm that I would not reveal his name or anything that might identify who he is. At first I felt he was being a trifle paranoid, but by the end, I found I have checked this article a number of times to see if I possibly left a trail.

I do not know this person, his views, experiences or anything else about him. He told me that, like so many of his peers, he saw the army as a porthole to learning a profession or getting a degree, an alternative more attractive than flipping burgers. But there was more that attracted him – a sense of belonging and pride and the opportunity to make a close group of friends. ‘I felt it would make me a better person as well – more confident, more perspective, more worldly.’

I asked him why he had the sticker and he shared two points. The first is that he felt America is dabbling in a region and culture that we have no connection to or understanding of. The people there generally don’t want us there and feel that our presence is just an obstruction to their country standing up on its own feet. I asked him if all Iraqis that he met felt this way and he replied no. There are many who see the US army as the only things standing against religious extremism.

But it is the second reason that he mentioned that has stayed with me: the feeling that the reason the US was so involved in Iraq had to do with oil. He mentioned other countries that are suffering from violence and oppressive regimes to whom we are giving little more than lip service. Guarding the interests of those who make fortunes from an energy source that is destroying the world is no reason to employ the US army, he told me.

War Vets focus their protest on the petrochemical industry's connection to the war.

While these are his thoughts and beliefs written in my words, he spoke calmly and intelligently. I felt considerable respect for this young man.

Where are the boundaries of war? Having read Khaled Hosseini’s ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns,’ I feel justified ‘freeing’ the Afghan people from Taliban oppression. I want a world where people have the freedom to choose their government, their religion, and to express their political beliefs without fear. I believe in freedom and desire to eradicate its antonym: oppression. I believe our perfect world cannot evolve without the use of force when oppressive powers refuse to listen to the needs of their people. But this is a far cry from justifying military actions to protect energy sources.

One more thing that this young war vet wanted me to make clear: He is a patriotic and proud American and would have no hesitation donning his uniform again to defend our freedom.

I believe him. He is just another Accidental Activist.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

The Red Room

I recently mentioned a local author, Devorah Major, and that she is a member of Red Room. I have crossed paths with a few of their members, all very impressive people, including one of my local favorites, Kemble Scott.

I was surprised to discover that their members include Salman Rushdie, Khaled Hosseini, Thich Nhat Hanh, Stephen Colbert, Tobias Woolf and many more very familiar names.

The Red Room was founded in San Francisco by author Ivory Madison in 2002. From what I can glean from their website, The Red Room was originally created to provide an ideal physical  environment for  writers to sit down and write. Presumably, it was also a place where, in the company of other authors, one could receive support and advise from each other.

Today, The Red Room seems more of an on-line community. Authors have their own Red Room websites and blogs. Services such as editing, web and blog hosting, and numerous courses, are also offered.

Are you a Red Room author? Please share how the club has helped you. For some endorsements of Red Room from their website, click here.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

 

Khaled Hosseini Revisited

I realize that I just posted about Khaled Hosseini a few weeks ago. The difference is that I have just finished his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns.

The novel is as compelling as The Kite Runner. Whereas The Kite Runner focuses more upon the relationship between two boys/men, A Thousand Splendid Suns brings out the way women are treated and, in particular, describes the relationship between two women.

Moreover, A Thousand Splendid Suns provides a clearer history lesson of Afghanistan. Not that I think this is the point of the novel, but I found it a welcomed addition.

Last week I met someone who’s daughter works with Hosseini. I know it is barely six degrees, but I was excited to not only hear about his foundation, but also a bit about him.

Khaled Hosseini doesn’t only write to highlight the plight of his people, he is doing something to help raise the awareness and find sustainable solutions. He deserves to have his his books read. He deserves to be heard.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

his article

kite runner

When Fiction Can Help Us Better Understand The World

It’s been a few weeks since I finished reading Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Amir and Hassan are still with me and I pay more attention when Afghanistan is mentioned, as it is too often unfortunately in our news.

But this is my point. Those of us who even bother these days to listen to the news on the radio, watch it on TV, or open a newspaper (paper or on-line), quickly become desensitized to a topic that is consistently appearing, especially if it is something that either we know little about from the beginning, or that little impact on our personal everyday life.

Afghanistan for me, prior to the war was a vague mountainous region where some tribes seemed able to prevent the powerful Soviet army from conquering it. That was about it.

Now, having read The Kite Runner, my ears perk up when the news mentions Afghanistan. I know what a Hazara is. I understand the NPR reporter’s language when he recounted how different ethnic groups were responding to the election.

This was all made possible for me by reading a fictional account of the land, history, people and culture. I am going to assume that Khaled Hosseini is painting a fairly accurate picture of Afghan society as he sees it. I cannot assume more.

But fiction can play an important part in providing understanding and awareness of what is taking place in the world. Perhaps it can also help provide a desire to demand and work for a sustainable future for, in this case, Afghanistan.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

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