What Should I Write About Pakistan?
My many Pakistani friends know that I’m always ready and willing to write and speak about my love for their country, regardless of how opaque or disturbing its domestic politics might be at any given moment, or how bad its relations with America might become.
Right now, both are as bad as they’ve been in quite a while. There’s a lot to say – but a lot of it is being said, by the usual American and Pakistani commentators and reporters. The question in my mind, which I would like your help answering, is what I can or should be writing or saying.
So this post is an open letter to ask how I can help. So far this year I’ve made a few significant statements, particularly my speech at the United States Air Force Academy in February addressing a string of appalling atrocities committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan. I also gave a talk titled “Pakistanis and Americans: We’re All in This Together” at a dinner hosted by the Milwaukee-area Pakistani community in April. Otherwise, over the past several months my time and energy have been sapped by unavoidable commitments and deadlines in my personal life (moving house) and unwelcome distractions on other work fronts.
Life is more settled now, and I’ll be spending the rest of the summer preparing the ambitious fall itinerary for my next book, Home Free: An American Road Trip. I’m very concerned these days with domestic American society and its fate, and I plan to be blogging at least weekly on American topics throughout the summer as well as while traveling, between early September and mid-December.
But I also – and always – feel a responsibility to write and speak out about Pakistan, especially now as relations between the U.S. and Pakistani governments continue to deteriorate alarmingly. Where, when and how to do this, in order to be most effective, is the question. Until a few months ago I wrote a regular column in the leading Pakistani daily Dawn, but that was cancelled because of budget constraints. I would welcome any and all opportunities to contribute to Pakistani media. But, as I say every chance I get, the real audience that needs to hear from me – from any friend of Pakistan – is the American public.
This is one purpose of my driving trip around the U.S. this autumn. Everywhere I go, I will seek and create opportunities to educate and engage Americans about Pakistan. Pakistani friends in Wisconsin are planning a full schedule of events and meetings at schools, bookstores and Rotary Clubs there in late September, and I hope Pakistani communities elsewhere will do the same. I’ll soon be publishing dates and details of my planned route, but for now these remain somewhat flexible, so if you think I can be helpful by visiting your city this fall, please contact me.
A related point that I feel compelled to emphasize constantly is that we cannot count on mainstream American media outlets to be more than fitfully hospitable. I’ll readily accept any chance to talk about the Pakistan that I know and love on national or local TV or radio in the U.S., as I did on Keith Olbermann’s show Countdown in March, but such chances tend to come only at moments when events boil over into a crisis. The public’s attention is always fickle, and Americans are especially distracted this year by the election and by ongoing personal and national economic worries.
So it’s more important than ever for us to take the initiative to meet Americans where they live: in schools and colleges, civic groups, churches and synagogues, even literally in their living rooms. This is what I’ve been doing for several years, and I’m gearing up to do it all over again, on a bigger scale, this year and beyond. I’m also considering adapting material from my two previous Pakistan books, and from my 2011 trip to flood-affected areas of Pakistan, into a short book geared toward American youth. And I intend to visit Pakistan again sometime in 2013.
If you’re Pakistani, Pakistani-American, or a friend of Pakistani people like me, then I need your help and encouragement. Please join my mailing list, like my Facebook page, support my livelihood by buying or sponsoring my books, and contact me directly. At a time when U.S.-Pakistan relations have (as an American friend who is currently in Pakistan informed me last week) “deteriorated to an all-time low,” with U.S. Embassy staff instructed to minimize all contact with Pakistanis, there’s a lot of work to be done. So let’s do it.
June 23, 2012
ETHAN CASEY is the author of Alive and Well in Pakistan: A Human Journey in a Dangerous Time (2004), Overtaken By Events: A Pakistan Road Trip (2010), and Bearing the Bruise: A Life Graced by Haiti (2012). He is also co-author, with Michael Betzold, of Queen of Diamonds: The Tiger Stadium Story (1992). Web: www.ethancasey.com or www.facebook.com/ethancaseyfans