Sunday, January 07, 2007

Value of Life

How would you feel if you were stuck in an arranged marriage? Setting aside our cultural taboos, how would you feel about marrying your first cousin?

What is the life of a child worth? If your newborn dies during childbirth, is someone to blame or is it simply God’s will?

When a child gets run over in the street or a soldier gets killed in the service, what is their life worth?

Well let me tell you my experience with these issues.

Of course we’d hate to be stuck in an arranged marriage. Here it’s a way of life. Many young people grow up knowing they’re going to marry their first cousin. My interpreter from the KMTC, Asmatullah, you can see his picture in the “Random Pictures” post, a few posts back. He was engaged to marry his cousin but he had the fortitude to break it off last month. Of course the families were not happy but he was in love with another young lady. He was hoping that once he broke off his engagement his family might enter into a marriage contract with his girlfriend. Today he found out that his girlfriend’s family has betrothed her to her cousin. As he was telling me I could see the tears begin to well up in his eyes. I was helping him with the paperwork to get a Visa and made the insensitive comment that maybe he’d find a young lady in the states to marry – of course I had already told him several times how sorry I was that she was marrying someone else lest you think me a complete cretin. He looked at me and said that he would never find anyone else to love. I felt so bad for him.

Another terp here at Blackhorse was in love with a classmate and they wanted to get married. He was engaged to his cousin and didn’t have the willpower to go against his family’s wishes. He married his cousin. He still sees his former girlfriend at school and it causes him quite a bit of turmoil as he is still in love with her. She no longer talks to him; either out of spite or respect that he’s now married. I feel bad for him.

So what kind of a relationship does that create with your spouse? I haven’t had the nerve to ask this direct question of anyone, least of all Wais. As I listen to him and the other terps and even our ANA counterparts talk about their families, it’s always about their children. Now it may be a cultural thing not to talk about their families but I get the very distinct impression that some, most, all of these guys have a deeper, greater love for their children. It makes me sad to think of being in that kind of relationship but then I guess that in the States we have many couples in the same kind of relationship. I guess what makes me sad is that these relationships never start out with that love, that passion that unite us in the States.

One of the terps newborns died recently. His attitude was “Enshallah” meaning God’s will. That’s a huge thing for them here, God’s Will. If you’re late it is God’s will. If your baby dies, it’s God’s will, not the doctor’s fault, the lack of sanitary conditions, a sick baby, or anything else, just God’s will. Wais tells me that death in child birth is not that uncommon here and that many children die while still young. “Enshallah” must give a measure of comfort to grieving parents to believe that it was God’s will that the baby die and I can see how it would.

The cynical lawyer in me sees it as a great way to keep malpractice costs down. I didn’t really say that did ?

Children run loose all over the place. Is it any wonder they get hit and killed by vehicles? Even the adults pay no need to traffic and walk out in front of moving vehicles and get hit and killed. If that happens, the family simply negotiates with the person who hit the person and gets paid off and it’s not very much. A few thousand Afghani is all which might only be a couple hundred bucks. Life’s not worth much here.

If you’re an Afghan soldier and killed by a coalition member, your life is worth a little over two thousand dollars. And the victim’s families will be grateful.

Life has such a different meaning and value here. Parents love their kids but don’t do a lot about keeping them safe.


Anonymous said...

He seems so young to be an interpreter. I'm sure there are some very interesting details about this young man that you left out...

LoraLynn said...

ew. that would be like me marrying seth. as much as i love the kid, that's nasty. (no offense seth)