Afghan News Update

Dan sneaks around. Dan’s in disguise. Dan wears tan perhan tumban, tan shawl, tan turban, a gray grizzly beard. Dan climbs rocky mountains and steals across Pakistani borders. Every night after dinner my father sits in his News Chair and watches the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. Dan is the only newsman Baba will watch because Dan was the only journalist who cared when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Sometimes Dan’s segments are thirty seconds, sometimes a whole minute. Baba jaan, I say, look, that’s Kabul, that’s where you’re from, and Baba ignores me. Dan’s reports are his only chance to see inside his homeland, and Dan’s Afghan segments are the only video I’ve ever seen of Afghanistan, the nation he tells me I come from, the place we’re supposed to move back to one day. I’m not sure I want to live in a country where I’ve never actually been, where Soviets shoot at nice men like Dan, who is scared and breathless and crouching behind boulders. But Dan makes it. Now he’s showing us men and women walking fast down dirt paths with children. Dan says these people are losing their homes, everyone’s fleeing the villages. Machine guns echo in mountains, taka-taka taka-taka, and Dan says the Afghan mujahideen love freedom just like Americans; they hate communism just like Americans; they love God, just like Americans; and if the communists aren’t stopped, communism will take over the planet. We must help the mujahideen, Dan says, we must send lots of weapons. Baba’s in his chair, I’m on the couch, my brother is stretched on the carpet—all of us united by the glow of the screen in the corner of the living room. Taka-taka taka-taka. We watch, and we breathe, and we take it all in, never imagining how this story will end.

Leila Christine Nadir is an Afghan-American artist and writer whose work appears in literary and scholarly journals, in museums and galleries, and in forests, classrooms, and kitchens. Her writing has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Khôra, Black Warrior Review, North American Review, ASAP, and Aster(ix), and has been supported by awards and fellowships from MacDowell, Hedgebrook, Bread Loaf, Tin House, the de Groot Foundation, and Aspen Words. She holds a PhD in English from Columbia University and is founding director of the Environmental Humanities Program at an upstate New York university. More info: Instagram: @afghan_vegan.