Tuesday, January 11, 2011

9 January 2011: Over Kabul

I did not sleep during the second leg of our journey Eastward out of London towards KL. Between tending a thrashing Abigail, reading David Mitchell’s excellent novel Ghostwritten, and trying not to contract cabin fever, there was no time. At about the half-way point of the flight, I glanced up at the hanging monitor which kept tabs on our progress, and noticed the icon of our plane located directly between Tehran and Kabul. That’s Tehran, Iran, and Kabul, Afghanistan - capitol cities of countries with whom we are either at war, or may very well be soon.

Such a surreal moment became more so when, a few hours later, the monitor reported that we were almost directly above Kabul. Some 40,000 feet above, to be sure. But still, above. Somewhere down below, American soldiers and Islamic freedom fighters waged their long and brutal conflict among the rugged rocks and innocent lives of the mountains. And just above them, I sipped a rum and coke and read a novel and gazed down into the abyss.

It is a humbling and terrifying thing to come so close to war, and yet remain so impossibly distant. As far as we could count, we were among a very small minority of Americans on our flight, so we seemed an unlikely candidate for a rocket attack. We were guests on an Islamic airline, headed for a Muslim country, flying over Muslim lands where my people and their people were busy killing one another.

We continued our flight, chasing the edge of the sunrise as it fled before us into Pakistan, India, and across the Bay of Bengal. I will probably never come so close to warfare in my lifetime again. I think of the psalmist thinking about a table laid in the presence of his enemies, and fearing no evil. I wonder for whom this table has been laid, for while I long to be friend to all, my Passport names me foe in these parts. Terrifying. And humbling.

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