To Boston, From Kabul, With Love
While the U.S. reeled from the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings and asked how they could happen here, on our soil, citizens thousands of miles away in war-worn Afghanistan posed for photographs with a simple message: “To Boston From Kabul With Love.”
The photographs were taken by Beth Murphy, a Boston-based documentary filmmaker and founder of Principle Pictures. Murphy made the sign to hold in a picture she planned to send to home, but the gesture took an impressive turn after she spoke to Frozan Rahmani, a CARE International program officer.
“While we talked about what was happening in Boston she made comparisons to what was happening here in Afghanistan,” Murphy told Campus Progress. “And rather than talk about it with a sense of cynicism or having a feeling of desensitization because of all the bombings they experience here—which you might expect—she expressed a deeper understanding of the tragedy, a deeper connection to the tragedy precisely because of what they experience here.”
Rahmani said she wished she could do something. Murphy asked if she'd be willing to have her picture taken.
Just as the photos illuminate the differences between violence in Afghanistan and the U.S., the Marathon bombings drew comparisons between the attack and U.S.-led destruction in Middle Eastern countries. Drone attacks in Pakistan have killed at least 400 civilians there, according to the Pakistani government and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. An investigation conducted by the Afghan government recently faulted the United States for a NATO strike that killed 17 civilians, 12 of whom were children.
Shahla Haeri, an anthropology professor at Boston University, said the "dominant discourse" about the Middle East is part of the reason why these facts are often overlooked. Politicians and the mainstream media render entire populations monolithic and "other," erasing those peoples' humanity in the process. That can make understanding the impact of U.S. foreign policy difficult.
"It is hard to think of oneself as 'violent' and destructive," Haeri told Campus Progress via email. "[I]t is lack of curiosity about the other or preference for ignorance (whether consciously or unconsciously). As the saying goes, 'Ignorance is bliss.'"
Haeri said she hopes people will try to relate to others and learn to coexist. The Marathon bombings showed Americans' capacity for generosity and empathy, and many hope those sentiments will reach beyond borders.
“I'm happy the pictures resonate with people,” Murphy said. “I think they speak to a common humanity that we all share.”
Molly Savard is a reporter for Campus Progress. You can follow her on Twitter @mollicules.