Mortenson reads to the children of Pakistan

In 2009, Greg Mortenson told Thomas Friedman, a op-ed writer for the New York Times, that he was originally critical of the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then, he said, something changed. Mortenson credits the U.S. military with “starting from the ground up” (NYT 7/18/09), and building relationships in order to truly help the people in the country they are occupying.

In the book “Three Cups of Tea,” the story of Mortenson’s personal journey that led him to be a hero for the children of Pakistan, he talks about listening to himself, and how that showed him what he needed to do. While watching the children, completely silent and without supervision, scribble their math into the dirt, Mortenson comments, “There was a fierceness in their desire to learn, despite how mightily everything was stacked against them… I knew I had to do something” (32).Later, when he realizes that his western idea of progress and production was much too fast-paced for the simple people he was dealing with, his internal commitment materializes into a realistic commitment to the Baltistani people.

This story of generosity, transparency, triumph, and grace is a story that is not without its hard lessons. The children of the Middle East, the children who could become the future of western-world hating terrorists, need even more support then the children of our own free country. If the military feels the need to spend what has totaled a $1 trillion “War on Terror,” why not invest money in those who decide the future. In 2007, Mortenson told PBS, “If we put one percent of the money that we put in the war on terror into education, it could have a profound difference.” That was about $400 billion ago.

The real terrorists in these countries see the harm in American’s having “three cups of tea” with the people that are thirsty for a way out. According to Mortenson, since 2007, the Taliban and its allies have bombed, burned or shut down more than 640 schools in Afghanistan and 350 schools in Pakistan, of which about 80 percent are schools for girls (Friedman, Thomas: NYT- 7/18/09). They pull from the illiterate and the unmotivated. They don’t want secular schooling being taught in a classroom, they want children exposed to the twisted ideology being spoken in the Taliban-run mosques.

Because of Mortenson’s efforts, little girls dream of being teachers and doctors. And when they become those teachers and doctors, they will be able to provide their sons the support that keeps them out of the hands of the Taliban.

Throughout this course, my opinions on terrorism and terrorists have been drastically altered. How can I blame someone for choosing a path of life when no one offered them at least an equally appealing solution? If these young men were given the choice to go to school and get an education, it becomes obvious they few would choose to strap a bomb to themselves and murder innocent people.

Mortenson said, “The only way we can defeat terrorism is if people in this country (Pakistan) where terrorists exist learn to respect and love Americans, and if we can respect and love these people here.” When was the last time you heard someone say on the news, “Maybe if we reached out and loved the people that produce these terrorists, the problem might start to dissolve?”

Let’s start loving the people of the Middle East. Let’s start learning to appreciate their way of life. Let’s be thirsty for “three cups of tea.” Who knows, maybe they’ll let us fill their cups too.