Here’s a post I’ve been working on for those who like to read.
I spent a lot of time studying literature in college. That was my major. Ironically, reading is what I spend almost the least amount of my day doing now. In the last few years, I’ve made a bigger attempt to get some reading done, and I don’t mean Dr. Seuss.
My most recent book that I’ve finished is “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. (I know books are supposed be underlined, but I don’t know how to underline on here!) It is Greg Mortenson’s story, and David Oliver Relin is the writer who really tells it.
I chose this book because I’ve really had in interest in books pertaining to the middle east, and Muslim culture in general lately. Previously I read “Reading Lolita in Tehran” which was amazing, but alas, not the book that I’m reviewing now.
Also, I’ve heard so much about this book. It was the #1 New York Times bestseller, and I’ve been seeing people making comments on facebook and the like. So I picked it up last Christmas…and am just finishing it now. That is my life now.
In summary, it’s about a Mr. Mortenson who is a avid climber, and in an attempt to summit K2 (a mountain in the same area as Everest, and although not as tall, much more difficult) he happened upon a tucked away village. The children had no school, and attempted their lessons by scratching things in the dirt. Moved by these people, he returns to America, penniless, but determined to raise enough money to build this village a school. In an uphill struggle, he raises the money, builds the school, and in the process, begins an organization that builds schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The book had a very gripping opening. With the summit in view, he has to turn back to save the life of a friend, and in the process gets lost and has to spend the night on the treacherous mountain without all his equipment. He had to break the ice forming over his nose and mouth, suffocating him while he slept. I was totally hooked.
This was followed by suspenseful adventures of his kidnapping, encounters with the Taliban, encounters with war, and fearing for his life on several occasions. It was fairly well rounded, though, in painting him as human, and not superhuman. For instance, he seemed to have trouble delegating, and when his organization was expanding much faster than he could keep up with, he obviously had a tough transition.
What is so stirring about this book is the view it takes on charity, religion, and politics. First, the basic premise of separating charity from religion. He was only successful in his work because he made no attempt to convert the people there, and even, on many occasions, prayed with them, reciting their creed to Mohammad. He had a respect for their faith, and in turn, they respected him.
While I respect the work that he has done, I can’t help but feel an undertone of condemnation and frustration with charities that do preach the gospel. What “Christians” couldn’t do, a “pagan” could. It does not allow for the differences in purpose of organizations. It’s like when people sued eHarmony for not connecting gay couples. Well, that wasn’t eHarmony’s purpose, or business. There are other businesses that do that. In the same way, don’t slam a charity that has a different purpose than your own. Maybe the reason other charities weren’t successful in building schools in that area is because that’s not their purpose.
There was a hole, though, that Mortenson’s organization filled, and I am glad for it. However, I do not think I could bring myself to practice parts of the Islamic religion, like Mortenson did, in order to accomplish that. I felt sorry for him, as a missionary kid, totally not understanding what Christianity is about. He was open to whatever, and that floating around makes me sad, although, not angry at him.
Politically, though, there are so many things to discuss! First I’ll go for his stance on focusing on educating girls. I like this. I am by no means a feminist, but that is terribly lacking in that country, and the fact is, an educated man is an educated man. But an educated woman is an educated family.
As women are the primary caregivers for children in this culture, these women are given access to heath information, and they learn to read, which we could then assume the children would learn to read sooner, etc. It benefits the whole culture there to have women educated, because the women are the primary caregivers in the family! It’s a plan that has exponential benefits.
Then there’s Mortenson’s obvious problem with the Bush administration. As a Bush supporter, I have to admit, this got old quick. Some of his concerns were valid, and I appreciated his insight, and my mind was changed as far as seeing why what the Bush administration made a wrong move here or there. Some of the criticisms were well thought out and explained well.
However, some of his disgust with the administration was laughable. For instance, Mortenson was for the war, until he saw that civilians were getting hurt in the process. Now, I understand, Mortenson saw these people first hand, and there’s a deep emotional response to that. But come on…please tell me about a war where there are no civilian casualties. I have never heard of one. That’s what makes war so ugly. That’s what makes war so awful. You liked the idea of war until you found out innocent people were getting hurt? Do he understand the definition of war?
To me, it was not surprising that innocent people were getting hurt. I hate that there were refugees, and that people lost limb and life. I am not saying that should be taken lightly. But please do not say “let’s bomb the Taliban” and not think for a second that these people who we are bombing have families, and homes, and villages, and schools where children are being indoctrinated. All of those are getting bombed. It’s war. I remember well the climate in this country after 9/11 and the call to war supported by both parties. Then people start complaining about people dying. It makes me scratch my head. We weren’t going to drop water balloons on them. What did people expect?
Other than taking every opportunity to slam Bush and Rumsfeld even when it was not appropriate, or completely out of context sometimes, it was one of the most intelligent criticisms of the Bush administration that I’ve read. I don’t mind criticisms, I just can’t stand stupidity. I learned a lot about the culture and climate in that part of the world, and that education, I believe, is beneficial.
I’m still a conservative, but I am a conservative that loves good intelligent discussion, and this book, for the most part, gave lots of food for thought.