Friday May 31, 2002

I got some stuff from Brian today. Brian Hallett, the fashion photographer, if you don't know. My host on the subcontinent. I think I know what he feels like, to be marooned from sanity, to have to reach out, if only through email, in hope that people will feel just a little portion of the lunacy and bless your presence in it.

Here's an email from Brian about being in India. Couldn't have done it better myself.

Dear friends,

I'm sitting in a little internet cafe outside of my studio in the old business district of Mumbai writing to you. Honestly the last few days I have been filled with anxiety about the brewing war over here. It's not just fear of war, because I have been here during a war. It's more a feeling of complete lack of involvement with the political process with people seemingly bent on blowing themselves up with nuclear weapons. We (x'ers) grew up with the concept of mutual annihilation so the notion that someone would actually use a nuclear bomb was not really a possibility. But here, nobody seems to grasp the enormity of the situation. NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT IT!!! It's like something happening very far away. There are no protests, no peaceniks, no rallys, no marches, no big articles or speeches calling for restraint. The feeling is more like, "oh well, we've been fighting for so long, let's just get it over with and blow the suckers up." People on the ground don't want war. But they feel too completely powerless against the tidal wave that's happening to do something, let alone to talk about it. There is a lot of political force working towards war as well. And it's freaking me out. But I am very torn about the idea of leaving to be safe. I have lived here for a long time and to leave is to escape when the going gets tough. I often think about the guilt I would experience if I ran away and something happened to my friends and family here. Survivor guilt.

I must also add that it is extremely frustrating to know that the US has treated Pakistan as an "ally" and "trusted friend" to help wage its war against the Taliban, all the while turning a blind eye to the fact that Pakistan is the source of trained Islamic militants. This has forced India's hand by creating a situation where India must allow the situation to escalate to make its case against Pakistani infiltrators. Only now is the US beginning to change it's tune against Musharraf, and I fear it is far too late. India has its own culpability, not the least of which is that India has absolutely no intention of creating a situation where the Kashmiri people could "self-determine" themselves into a Muslim state. India is not about to go to the talking table with that as a possible outcome. I suppose that centuries of foreign domination including 700 years of mughal (Muslim) rule by outside forces has created the Indian psyche of today. India is a country where Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis live side by side, not always peacefully, but under a common law that allows them to not only worship as they please, but actually exercise their own relgious laws (India has separate courts for different religions). The solution to the crisis is not self-determination for the Kashmiri people. Kashmir is a state and part of India. India is not occupying Kashmir. It would be like giving Texans self-determination. The answer for Muslims cannot and should not be separate Islamic regimes throughout the world. Muslims must live within pluralistic societies that protect all people's relgious beliefs and values. And terrorism, infiltration, and nuclear blackmail are clearly not answers to resolve this conflict. Tremendous pressure must be put on Pakistan NOW to back down. It is the only way I see out of this conflict.

It is estimated that a limited nuclear exchange would kill 3-4 million people, and leave another 1-2 million people seriously injured. This is unfathomable. Frankly, I don't fear dying in this exchange, I fear surviving it.

Peace and love