Barnes & Noble interview with Khaled Hosseini
(Page 7 of 9)
KH: I found the entire business highly distasteful. I am not a person who takes offense easily, and I am not a person who looks for offense in every uttered word. Thankfully, it seems to have died down, although you never know. What was going on, I felt, was so blatant and so ugly that I felt I had to say something. Part of it has to do with the fact that I actually, for many years, had a great sense of respect for Senator McCain and his experience, and the kind of political leader he appeared to be. I was rooting for him very hard back in 2000. But watching him at those rallies, I couldn't help but get the sense that he had made a Faustian deal to allow this hatefulness to go on if it got him elected. I'd always thought, and I still do, that on some level he's much better than that, that he is a man of principle and honor and dignity; I could almost see that side of his nature reflected in his body language. But what was going on at those rallies was really loathsome, and his and his running mate's response to what was going on was tepid.Skip to next paragraph
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I know McCain was trying to defend Obama when that confused lady got up and said, "I don't trust him; he's an Arab," and McCain took the mike and said, "No, no, he's a decent family man." His intentions may have been good, and it was unintentionally humorous, but there was still an insidious side to it. It wasn't until Colin Powell got on TV that I felt somebody had the appropriate response to what was going on; Powell said that the real question is not whether Obama is an Arab, the real question is "What if he is? So what?" That ought to be the real question. It speaks to this pejorative connotation that the words "Muslim" and "Arab" have. It's a way of discrediting somebody and it's a way of immediately turning on the radar and creating skepticism and mistrust, which I believe is truly unfortunate.
But I have to tell you, I have lived in this country now for twenty-eight years, and I admire it greatly. I really do. I feel like we are a unique nation in this world, in that we are able to implement great change in our society over a relatively short period of time. What takes centuries in Europe, for instance, we accomplish in a generation. To think that fifty years ago black people had to sit in the back of a bus, and that now we're on what seems to be the verge of a really transcendent moment, this beautiful and elegant moment in our political history -- it makes me very proud to be a citizen of this country at this particular time.
JM:Recently, there have been reports that the United States is mulling talks with the Taliban in an effort to quell unrest in Afghanistan. What are your thoughts about that specifically, and about the current situation in Afghanistan in general?
KH: I should say I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert on the matter; I speak as a layperson. But I read the blogs and I read the stories about Afghanistan online, and I have some friends in the humanitarian organization community in Afghanistan that I keep in touch with. These proposed talks with the Taliban are not the outcome that anybody really wanted, but given the circumstances, they may have to be pursued. When Senator McCain says that we will win the wars and bring our troops home in honor and victory, I think it's a black-and-white way of representing what is a very nuanced and complex reality. I'll just speak for Afghanistan. I think we're in the midst of redefining what winning means in Afghanistan, and it apparently no longer means the elimination of the Taliban as a viable cultural-military entity of relevance, but rather, as one British Commander put it a couple of weeks ago (in fact, the top British Commander), that we may have to accept some level of insurgency.
Obviously, what the Taliban did in Afghanistan -- to Afghan people, to women and to children -- is still unforgivable to me. Not only that, but the irreversible harm that it did to the Afghan cultural heritage is incalculable. So for me, the notion of seeing them have any hand in power-sharing in Afghanistan is hard to accept. But it may be that this is the reality.