Picture obtained from Tumblr user: http://sandookchi.tumblr.com/.
A friend asked me why do you care about what happens so far away, about another country’s laws, and aren’t American issues more relevant to you, because you are closer to them, because you live here and because they directly impact you. What he said made sense at face value. The heart, however, doesn’t factor in proximity was my immediate thought.
Relevancy and impact isn’t dependent on where someone is physically situated. Admittedly, news resonating from the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian subcontinent tug at me more. I would imagine it’s because I belong to the Muslim and Pakistani diaspora population in the United States. Thus, some events remain relevant no matter how far away they are. Impactful even.
Today when I woke up and rolled over to look at news tweets on my phone it was the Peshawar Attacks. I read through a couple horrified at first and then anger began mixing in. But then I read this: “The smallest coffins are often the heaviest to carry.” Anger simmered and was replaced by sadness. I read about the heroic teachers who told children to stay calm, read the qalma and snuck them out back doors. Then I read something that said, “Sitting in your house, writing about this wont change a thing.” He’s right, parents’ glowing dreams embodied by their sons and daughters’ smiles will never re-kindle.
The vigils we’re going to have in the States will help us mourn for brothers and sisters we have never really met or shared the same soil with. It’ll help us grieve for people that sure looked just like us, bright eyed with brown skin and black hair, but that’s where the similarities more or less end. It is our Pakistani American privilege that allows us to come together and light candles.
The ability to hope is an expense many can’t incur. We have the chance to acknowledge lives taken far too soon with elegance, wax, light and grace without the kind of debilitating pain, relevancy and impact mothers and fathers in Peshawar are bearing. And we should take advantage of that chance. We ought to care. However, we should be mindful that our visceral anxieties come from a place of truth: that we are watered down identities of those that remain in the motherland.
The truth of our diaspora identities demand that we ought to stay in our lanes. Because although our hearts don’t factor in proximity, we would be kidding if we said the tragedy that happened today is as relevant and impactful as it is on people in Peshawar. We don’t have to deal with the ugly effects of the War on Terror–which the country that keeps our bodies is waging but the country that keeps our hearts is enduring. And it is precisely because: no matter how we align ourselves we still don’t share their blood soaked soil.