Newspaper and television images, then the images of our lowest and high sentiments take over. Abbottabad, Pakistan is in the media today. The narrative and emotional context for Americans interleaves our September 11th staggering heartbreaking tragedy, the supernova in our hearts for vengeance, the belief in the possibility of justice, the foolish rollercoaster that we have put substantial parts of the world on since. And how many of us still sense that little is changed or will change without being honest about the complexities of global culture and thus, the daunting bafflement of first changing ourselves?
I’ve been to and through Abbottabad many times. My fondest memory is when I was there as part of a US road racing team competing in the Tour of Islamabad. Josh, Amanda, and I stayed after the race with some riders on the Canadian team so that Dahlberg could show us the sublime cols east of Attar Sheesha. Headed back to Islamabad, there’s a stretch of the Karakoram Highway south from Mansehra that stands out as some of the most sheer giddy fun I’ve had on a bicycle. Josh and I had gone up ahead a little bit, weaving through colorful painted trucks and cars, I remember that we were both feeling good so were pushing it, heads down in a kind of two-up TT. Of course we were concentrating on the pedaling, but the landscape, here never free of the impact of the people of Pakistan, was infusing our psyches with its distinctive Place.
And what is my image? The blend of the modern and traditional, fruit vendors and chai stalls outside of excellent and smart restaurants, Landrovers, mobile phones, houses behind walls (but that’s, again, cultural, not for security) so not readily available for inspection but quite nice when you get a glimpse, crisply dressed smiling waving soldiers going to class, shops meticulously swept to fend off the dust from the streets. We bought roasted corn and a couple of Cokes from a seller pushing his cart at the end of town. Drivers were courteous and encouraging.
I’m glad the world has a little less hate because a confused and dangerous person is gone from it. I can’t tell you what picture to have of Abbottabad. Mine is overwhelmingly positive.