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Turning Inward is Not America’s Answer

I have had the opportunity to meet and work with a number of Afghan women both at home and abroad for the Bush Institute’s latest book, We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope. These women are not only inspiring and hardworking, they are grateful for the opportunity to live in the United States.

Article by Betsy Martin June 21, 2016 //   3 minute read

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon recently wrote a moving piece about the xenophobic period we are experiencing in America today. As she wrote, “in this moment of terror is a time to define who we are as Americans.”  In times of uncertainty and fear, human nature’s tendency is to turn inwards and isolate ourselves from those who do not look or act like “us.” 

I have had the opportunity to meet and work with a number of Afghan women both at home and abroad for the Bush Institute’s latest book, We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope. These women are not only inspiring and hardworking, they are grateful for the opportunity to live in the United States.  And they look an awful lot like “us.” They love this country and are deeply appreciative of the opportunities it offers because they have seen the alternative firsthand: oppression because of gender; war as a result of fear; and a withholding of the most basic of freedoms. 

Mina Sherzoy, an Afghan woman featured in We Are Afghan Women, is often called a “bridge” between Afghanistan and the United States as a result of her having lived in both countries. In her story, Mina poignantly explains, “After September 11, my body was in the United State but my mind was in Afghanistan.  I wanted to do something. …I wanted to come [to Afghanistan] and make a difference.  I cherished my life in the United States.  The U.S. gave me security, the U.S. gave me everything, but wanted to share what I have with my Afghan people, with the women, with the men.”

If “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,” then we should not be divided into categories of Afghan Americans, Hispanic Americans, African Americans or White Americans – we are just Americans.  And as Americans, together we grieve the senseless loss of too many lives gone.