When the News Hits Close

For the past few years now, especially in the recent months, I have been reading about the violence and instability in Pakistan in the newspapers and online and watching it on the television. While relaxing in my living room, I see the pictures of frightening protests, of angry mobs and horrific bombings. On the television screen it all seems so distant, tragic yet so foreign. Then I think about my uncles, aunts and cousins and how the news on my television screen is their horrible reality.

I visited Pakistan a couple years ago. I was getting married and felt the sudden need to know my extended family. To the visitor, the extreme poverty, intensity, utter chaos is apparent as soon as you step out of the gate into Karachi’s International Airport. Once you are out on the streets, you are instantly surrounded by cars, over-crowded jewel-colored buses, pedestrians, over-loaded donkey carts, motorcycles, bicyclists and herds of goats all vying for space on the road. The white markers delineating each lane are meaningless – if there is space, it will be taken up by some mode of transportation. The moment your car stands still for a few moments, while you are trying to catch your breath, an endless line of beggars start to pitifully tap at your car window for attention, hand outstretched. The most heartbreaking are the children. Being so blessed in my own childhood, I can’t fathom a life where your survival is solely dependent on the kindness and generosity of often dismissive strangers.
My family, many of whom, I had not seen in years, and some whom I had never met, went out of their way to ensure my comfort and well-being. And yet I couldn't help but think how difficult life seemed in Pakistan. Many of the basic necessities that I take for granted, are luxuries. Nevertheless, in their homes, I felt loved, safe and protected even from own personal dramas and problems. I left after a couple weeks with incredible memories, having visited family in four disparate cities.
As I go about my daily life now in California, I think about them often. My family in Pakistan checks in via email and text messages, inquiring about me and updating me on their lives. Two of my cousins’ wives recently gave birth to new born babies. I know that all the ‘us versus them’ rhetoric and all the banter about the “clash of civilizations” could not be more meaningless to them as they struggle to create nurturing, secure and healthy environments for their children.
Technology and globalization has provided us with the extraordinary ability to watch the news from around the world instantaneously. We can watch battles take place half way around the world, while peacefully curled up on our own couches at home. However, one aspect these up to the minute, 24 hour news reports rarely cover is the common struggle, the shared humanity within the story. The drive to sensationalize news stories does not promote that human connection that we as a global community direly need to build. Today I will read another article about the senseless violence and volatility in Pakistan and I will worry about the safety and well-being of my family there and I hope that they will stay safe and out of harm’s way.

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