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July 9, 2008 / calebdresser

Terror, from an Indian newstand – I

To watch the news in America, it would seem we are arrayed for battle in an epic duel with a wily enemy whose sole purpose is the destruction of us, our values, and our way of life. From what I see in India, the Americans are passing interlopers in an ancient regional conflict. While the truth is most likely somewhere in between, it is worth remembering that the simplistic analyses presented by the media and some scholars do not tell the whole story. In a time where being able to differentiate between Sunni and Shi’a earns one the title “well-informed,” it seems that the intricate ebb and flow of cultures, armies, and religions across central Asia for the last thirty-five centuries has been indiscriminately obscured by the dust from our bombs.

America is not the one great Satan in the eyes of our enemies, if the pattern here is anything to judge by. Attacks by Islamic terrorists here have occurred with some regularity in the past few years, and hardly a week passes without news of a cell exposed in this city, a group of infiltrators killed in a firefight at that border crossing. The papers here also carry frequent articles on the situation in Afganistan, but I have yet to hear a single news item about Iraq. America is impossibly distant, and as a result the picture that emerges is focused firmly in Asia and the Middle East. There are problems in several countries, and perhaps thanks to its partially homegrown nature, terror seems less a war and more a policing problem here in India.

I think what we are really afraid of in America is the unknown, for here the day-to-day danger is certainly higher, yet terrorism is hardly at the top of people’s worry lists. Yes, it is a problem, I hear, but not one worth putting much energy into worrying about. Getting an education, raising your children, having your parents find you someone acceptable to marry, staying out of the way of corrupt policemen – those are worthy concerns. It is possible that the comfort of life in America helps too – with little to push against in out day-to-day lives, fear of the most dramatic types of destruction may be more easily instilled in our minds. Whatever the reasons, attitudes here are less melodramatic, perhaps dulled by the nearer reality of conflict zones and bombings.


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  1. Shubh / Jul 9 2008 3:02 pm

    Hey Caleb, I’ve noticed the same in my most recent visits to India. In the morning when you flip open the newspaper you are more likely to come upon an add for a family looking for a suitable match for their daugther or son rather than a long list of the most recent attacks in Iraq. None of my relatives there seem to focus their lives on the negative, which seems to rub off on anyone who visits there!

    I hope you are having fun!


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