Youíve been confusing your Pashtun with your Peshawar, your
Uzbekistan with your Uighuristan, your Kashmir with your Kandahar.
Shiite! Canít you get it straight?!
Thereís no need to hole up with an old stack of the New York
Times' "A Nation Challenged" sections to figure out whatís going
on. Just head over to the Cambridge Center for Adult Education,
where a primer course on Pashtun culture is being offered next week.
Jesse Gordon, a political writer for the Cambridge Chronicle
who regularly leads lectures on adventure travel at the Cambridge
Center for Adult Education, will give a slide show and lecture on
Monday evening for all us current-events-challenged folks. "Here we
are fighting a war, and no one really knows who weíre fighting
against ó or with," he says, over the phone. "Like Pashtun.... What
the heck does that mean?"
We, for one, werenít quite sure, to be honest. But Gordon was
quick to answer his own question, explaining how the ethnic group
spans both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and what its headwear looks
like. ("The Pashtun hat is that rolled-up tan hat. Itís really quite
Gordon, who traveled in the region in 1993 and 1994 working on
projects such as a researching books for the Chinese Church of Hong
Kong and a German refugee group, has prepared a sort of Pashtun 101.
"Iíll be showing a set of slides ó maybe 50 or 60 slides ó that are
focusing on cultural issues, ethnic appearances, and a lot about
geography," he says. "Most people donít really realize what the
place looks like; itís ridiculously mountainous." In between the
slew of slides of his trips, Gordon ó who happily shares that heís
cozied up to a Kalashnikov rifle (visit www.jessegordon.com/Spectrum
to see a picture) ó will interject analysis and explanations.
Even if youíre a slave to CNN and a devoted reader of the
Times and the New Yorker, Gordon thinks he has a thing
or two to teach you. "I think that watching the news, you wouldnít
get the cultural stuff, you wouldnít get the ethnicity stuff, you
wouldnít have a sense for what itís like to be there," he says.
He offers an example of a detail that he thinks really
captures the cultural differences: "You go to Pakistan and
you see these decorated trucks. They dangle bells and stuff like
that. But itís not just a couple things stuck on it; the entire
trucks are decorated with dangling things and bells." He pauses. "It
makes you feel like youíre in a different world."
Jesse Gordonís slide show and lecture on Pashtunistan will
take place Monday, January 14, at 8 p.m. at the Cambridge Center for
Adult Education, 56 Brattle Street, Cambridge. Tickets cost $2. Call