During this war year (as President Bush termed 2003) or Year of the Blues (according to Congress), I made the transition from Arkansas to Memphis, with positive results and much gratitude. With the exception of the Windstorm, when everyone lived like refugees for a week, Memphis bears little resemblance to Little Rock. Little Rock, after all, did sell its soul when politics replaced humanity at the outset of the Culture War.
(The Culture War is vaguely similar to Asa Hutchinsons revamp of the continual War On Drugs but more insidiously effective and corporate. Its frontlines abut radio, television, and print media and its methods include blacklisting and mergers. Casualties of the Culture War range from Dance Party enthusiasts to widowed mothers to the family farm. Arkansas is a battleground in the Culture War, as anybody whos lived there can tell you.)
When the War in Afghanistan started, folks in Arkansas became aware that Little Rock and Kabul are parallel if one looks on a globe. You can trace your finger around until, BOOM! Youre in Afghanistan. Or, you could wait until the hottest day of summer and just drive through Helena. The poverty level is comparable, especially considering that a recent study reported in the Arkansas Times found that Arkansas ranks first in the nation for the most families living in poverty. Afghanistan ranks first in the world for infant mortality, two years after being liberated by the United States.
Arkanistan: Its what you get when you combine Arkansas and Afghanistan. A few feudal lords and the rest scraping by in the dirt (Walton; Tyson; Stephens; Rockefeller; Karzai --) while a religious fanatic-turned-politician sucks the people dry (the Huckabee family & cronies; Karzai --), and lets not forget the little girls getting raped and forced to marry older men who may or may not be distant cousins.
According to a just-released Amnesty International survey reported in the Associated Press, oppression is still a way of life for the women and girls of Afghanistan: Illiteracy, police-enforced random virginity tests, and the aforementioned atrocities remain the norm, not the exception. Burkas rule. Slavery persists years after a forgotten war that was swallowed up by the rockets red glare and ensuing (déjâ vu) chaos in Iraq.
But despair is not an option, as most women know. Broad generalizations notwithstanding, it is past time for broads to make generalizations. According to Tacitus, The Truth Against The World was the battle cry of warrior Queen Boadicea of the Icenii tribe, a people renowned for their advanced culture. The scorched-earth policy pioneered by the Roman Imperialists against the Celtic tribes of Europe and Great Britain is recurring today in Afghanistan and Iraq. They make a desert and call it peace, lamented Tacitus -- of his own people, no less. Todays American journalist, writer, poet, artist, archivist, follows in the steps of Roman historians by recording the hypocrisy, waste, loss of Truth, and degradation of Beauty in time of War.
George Bushs friend Don Evans, the Commerce Secretary, spoke recently to Wolf Blitzer about progress in the War in Iraq. Mr. Evans touted the new Iraqi dinar, gushing about the fact that theres a woman depicted on the money rather than the face of Saddam Hussein. Such an irony is lost in a floodtide of distraction (see Culture War, above) that in no way obscures the light of truth: Civilizations rotting at the peak, as Yeats observed, may overreach even their own hubris. Women-- even the children -- of Arkanistan, those whose humble lives are parallel in terms of poverty and oppression, understand hypocrisy perfectly.