What to Expect from the Taliban as They Retake Afghanistan

Once again, Afghanistan is in the news.  U.S. leadership is expecting to be able to negotiate with the Taliban.  Khaled Hosseini’s novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns was a wonderful read and such a moving story. Previously, I had only read of Afghanistan in Mitchner’s novel, Caravans  It is obvious Hosseini writes from experience, research, and from interviews. His writing is solid and if one wanted, he or she could conduct a cultural study of Afghanistan by researching the people, places, special words, historical allusions, and historical events. In fact, if I were teaching the novel, I would focus on the cultural enrichment that could be gained from such a study.

There were many lines in this novel worthy of quoting, but the most interesting (and haunting) to me were the decrees of the Taliban once they had taken over. If you ever had any doubts about what your life would be like under the Taliban this should convince you that the society they want to build is not exactly a model of love and tolerance. This message that was proclaimed from loudspeakers, on radios and written in distributed flyers is from p. 247 of the novel:

These are the laws that we will enforce and you will obey:

All citizens must pray five times a day. If it is prayer time and you are caught doing something other, you will be beaten.
All men will grow their beards. The correct length is at least one clenched fist beneath the chin. If you do not abide by this, you will be beaten.
All boys will wear turbans. Boys in grade one through six will wear black turbans, higher grades will wear white. All boys will wear Islamic clothes. Shirt collars will be buttoned.
Singing is forbidden.
Dancing is forbidden.
Playing cards, playing chess, gambling, and kite flying are forbidden.
Writing books, watching films, and painting pictures are forbidden.
If you keep parakeets, you will be beaten. Your birds will be killed.
If you steal, your hand will be cut off at the wrist. If you steal again, your foot will be cut off.
If you are not Muslim, do not worship where you can be seen by Muslims. If you do, you will be beaten and imprisoned. If you are caught trying to convert a Muslim to your faith, you will be executed.

Attention women:

You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a mahram, a male relative. If you are caught alone on the street, you will be beaten and sent home.
You will not, under any circumstance, show your face. You will cover with burqa when outside. If you do not, you will be severely beaten.
Cosmetics are forbidden.
Jewelry is forbidden.
You will not wear charming clothes.
You will not speak unless spoken to.
You will not make eye contact with men.
You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten.
You will not paint your nails. If you do, you will lose a finger.
Girls are forbidden from attending school. All schools for girls will be closed immediately.
Women are forbidden from working.
If you are found guilty of adultery, you will be stoned to death.
Listen. Listen well. Obey.

Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Reader-Response Commentary

“Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Reader-Response Commentary

There are some poems I’ve studied that are so touching so inspiring that I have never forgotten my first encounter. “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson is one of those. Since I am a believer in the Reader Response theory of literary study, I decided to revisit this poem that deeply affected me many years ago when I was in college and see how my personal response to that poem may have shifted or changed. I don’t have those early notes, but I vividly remember how the poem affected me. Reader response can include religious, cultural news and facts, family, personal successes and failures, lessons learned, etc.  Many preachers use a reader response when speaking from the Bible.  There are some preliminary facts about the poem that should be kept in mind before a line-by-line commentary is attempted.

First, Tennyson wrote the poem in 1833 after the death of his friend, Arthur Henry Hallam a poet, and the subject of Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam. The poem was first published in 1842. Hallum is known as the jeune homme fatal, the doomed young man of his generation.  In form, it is an interior dramatic monologue, written in blank verse (unrhymed Iambic pentameter). Now, here is the text and my commentary in italics. I may add more thoughts later, so it may be a work in progress:

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I also feel listless at times. As a college instructor, I’ve always felt my task was to civilize my students. More and more students enter my courses as savages—rude, unread, lazy (I believe in rigorous academics), dishonest (plagiarism is too common),  lacking patriotism, with a victim mentality, and too easily influenced by popular fads of media and politics.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;

I have traveled extensively across the nation since 2007, as a storyteller, musician, and author. Sometimes, I’ve experienced great joy, at other times, suffering, sacrifice and pain. When I reflect on those journeys, cities, events, and people I’ve encountered, I realize how greatly they have affected me. I too am a part of all I’ve met. It’s hard for me to rest from travel. To go from close to 150 presentations across the nation to almost nothing because of the COVID shutdown has been hard.

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

The COVID shutdown, not only cost me a great amount of money, but it revealed how my schedule drove me on and how boring my life can be without goals and tasks and opportunities. As another possible shutdown of the nation looms before us, I hope I can keep this same positive attitude to follow knowledge. I don’t want to rust out.  I need to use my time better, to “save every hour from that eternal silence.” I still want to see how far I can go.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

I too have a son, who seems to have more sense than I have, more stability, and so committed to his own work. All I leave behind when I leave this world will be in his hands.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

I hope this will always be my optimistic attitude, my philosophy. I may go down, but I won’t die sitting still, without dreams. I do a song in my music show, “40 Days of Rain,” that has these lines: “This dry land may get me, but it ain’t got me yet.”  Like a farmer, I must wait to see what the next year will bring my way.  The last two lines are my favorite in this poem. “Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”








Biden’s America: When Things Fall Apart . . .

Biden’s America: When Things Fall Apart

“He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”   —Chinua Achebe

A few months into Biden’s presidency, it is stating the obvious to say that things haven’t gone well. The hatred for President Trump and the poison liberal ideology that resulted in Biden’s fraudulent election, a cracking economy, a power-mad Washington elite, and an increasing border disaster is, to borrow Achebe’s words, a knife that may sever America from a prosperous and happy future. The MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN slogan is quickly changing to WE MUST SAVE AMERICA.

In fact, things are going so badly since the projected  Golden Age of Biden has not materialized, the liberal and media emphasis has shifted once again to creating fear of another pandemic so that government can mandate masks and lock the whole country down again and then use the imaginary pandemic as an excuse to monkey with and cheat in elections as they did before because they know they cannot win another election otherwise.

They do not want Americans to have their country back.

Yet, there are many who think things are fine and do not realize the ship of our nation is sinking. We have charged full steam into an iceberg that has halted progress and ripped the bottom off unprecedented prosperity that existed just a few months ago.

I suspect the books of Charles Bowden are not read by many of our leaders or they would take the border problem much more seriously. The progress in halting the COVID pandemic is now jeopardized by the porous border allowing thousands carrying COVID to enter our nation, dispersing them at taxpayer expense through our nation, carrying COVID and other third-world diseases with them. In addition, dangerous gangs, known and convicted criminals, unprecedented quantities of drugs, and human traffickers follow like hungry wolves. Theodore Shoebat made a full-length documentary titled Hell Across the Border that reveals how gangs and death cults from Mexico have already come to America. There are already too many crime-ridden cities where travel, business, and living are not safe. That will only worsen if the present conditions are not corrected. Porous borders once helped destroy the Roman Empire.

Why are these things happening? Why is there a loss of patriotism? Why are people protesting law enforcement, kneeling during the National Anthem, praising anti-American groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter, canceling bail, not arresting criminals, and releasing criminals? Why are hundreds dying because of violence in Democrat cities?

Why? Basically, too many are following media-fed fads. It’s a contagion of the bandwagon fallacy.  It’s a sort of virtue signaling, the popular thing to do.  Some support these measures because of monetary interests. Worse of all, there are many in the Washington elite who don’t care what happens to the citizens of our land as long as they don’t lose power.  They are protected by their huge fortunes, by their walled compounds and private security, and by legal immunity and exemption from laws and mandates.

The hatred of people like President Trump and conservatives is irrational. People who scream at the sky, harass people in restaurants, tear down statues, are little different than the fanatical Muslims who likewise scream, chant, and harass people who differ from them. Fanatical Islam defaces century-old monuments and stones people to death for minor offenses.

What solutions are offered to correct our crime problem? Disarming citizens is not the answer. Defunding and dismantling police forces have already born poison fruit. There are now more large areas of cities where it is not safe to drive through or even live in. Raising taxes or depending on government bailouts certainly can’t be the answer.

Can you blame someone who wants to move to a safer, less taxed state?

Our political leaders waste time so they can argue about masks. Will the mandate to wear masks become our national dress code? They threaten fines and arrest for violations of their policies, but they tolerate riots and violence. They revoked President Trump’s executive orders out of spite with no explanation. They either don’t have the knowledge or intelligence to see or they don’t care about the contradictions.

There are several current, destructive issues that loom in America’s future:

1) Shutdowns.  So many businesses have been permanently ruined. Too many will never be back. Many fear that another shutdown will break our nation beyond repair.

2) Travel by air,  both locally and internationally, is already difficult, and in some cases impossible.

3) The English language is under attack from WOKE censors and political correctness.

4) Phantom of white supremacy. America is the freest nation on earth and a land where any person, of any gender, nationality, or race can reinvent him or herself and fulfill their dreams. All they need is a strong work ethic, determination, ambition, and to take advantage of the many resources our nation offers.

5) The race card, especially through Critical Race Theory, is being used to create a victim mentality and actually creates hostility instead of harmony.

6) Hypocrisy and double standards of those in political power.

7) The use and application of logic have vanished. People who cannot think properly are dangerous.

8) There is a fast-growing loss of work ethics, due in part to government subsidies. When people don’t have to work, they won’t.

9) Media has largely become a tool of the Democratic Party. True the number of conservative media alternatives is growing, but it will be a while before they can have an influence that can equal liberal media.  Once upon a time I enjoyed PBS programs and selected upbeat shows like CBS Morning Show. I learned from them, was inspired by them, encouraged my students to listen to them. That is no longer true.

10) Celebrities and the Hollywood industry have stepped onto the liberal bandwagon, persecuting, blacklisting any who dare go against them.

11) Education is in real jeopardy. The power of the Teacher Unions is massive, resisting school openings. Higher education seems to be ignorant of history, resistant to the classics of literature, the dangers of communism, and principles of logic.

Of course, there is more than can be said, but perhaps this essay will be of some help to someone’s thinking.  I think there’s no better closing for us to remember than this prophetic quote from Cormac McCarthy’s  No Country for Old Men , “Ever step you take is forever. You cant make it go away. None of it. You understand what I’m sayin?”

Let’s hope our citizens and especially our leaders take the right steps.

–Rickey Pittman, 2021


Great Lines from No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Quotations from No Country for Old Men 

The purpose of this post is to post the lines from Cormac’s McCarthy’s novel, No Country for Old Men. In my literary thinking, I am a follower of the Reader Response theory. Sixteen years ago, almost to the day, I read this novel. Since then, I’ve watched the movie numerous times. I decided to give the book a second read and see what I’ve brought to this second reading that I did not have in my mind, heart, and experience that I had that first read. I thought a good exercise for that is to record lines that touched me or caught my attention.

Other than No Country for Old Men, I’ve read every novel of McCarthy at least twice, and now I can add the title to my “read twice” list. Every work of McCarthy’s that I’ve read has touched me deeply and each provides great quotations that touched upon my human existence. Because of McCarthy’s historical research and extensive vocabulary,  each reading has been a learning experience. And many of the lines and phrases pushed me to immediate research. Lines such as “pictographs perhaps a thousand years old” (11) and “There were Mojave rattlesnakes in that country” (18), made me search for images of the pictographs and research on the Mojave rattlesnake (18), the most poisonous snake in the United States. Though there are many more I could have used, I hope that these quotations may also touch you as well. They are lifted from Knopf’s 2005 edition. The spelling and punctuation are McCarthy’s.

16 And the chances of me seein you fore you see me are about as close to nothin as you can get without fallin in.

17 – He was scared in a way that he didn’t even understand.

19 –It was a penitentiary offense to own one (machine pistol).

20 – You live to be a hundred, he said, and there wont be another day like this one. As soon as he said he was sorry.

25 -the road deserted, the truck radio in this outland country dead even of static from one end of the band to the other.

26 Everbody is somethin.

27 – A trespasser. Among the dead. Dont get weird on me, he said. You aint one of em. Not yet.

27 – There is no description of a fool, he said, that you fail to satisfy. Now you’re goin to die.

28 – The spotlight swept over the rocks again, It’s all right, he said. You need to be put out of your misery. Be the best thing for everbody.

29 – Then he realized that he would never see his truck again, Well, he said. There’s lots of things you aint goin to see again.

29 – If you knew there was somebody out here afoot that had two million dollars of your money, at what point would you quit lookin for me? That’s right. There aint no such point.

36 – By then they would know who he was and they would never stop looking for him, Never, as in never.

39 – Point bein you don’t know what all you’re stopping when you do stop somebody.

45 – Beyond in the stone arroyos the tracks of dragons.

57 – Anything can be an instrument, Chigurh said. Small things. Things you wouldnt even notice. They pass from hand to hand. People don’t pay attention. And then one day there’s an accounting. And after that nothing is the same.

62 – I don’t know that law enforcement benefits all that much from new technology Tools that comes into our hands comes into theirs too.

62 – It [a new car] wouldn’t outrun a fatman.

62 The ones that really ought to be on death row will never make it. I believe that.

64 – It takes very little to govern good people. Very little. And bad people cant be governed at all. Of if they could I never heard of it.

66 – I aint makin no promises, he said. That’s how you get hurt.

79 – This whole thing is just hell in spectacles, aint it, Sheriff.

79 – I ain’t sure we’ve seen these people before. Their kind. I don’t known what to do about em even. If you killed em all they’d have to building a annex on to hell.

87 – By the time he got up he knew that he was probably goig to have to kill somebody. He just didnt know who it was.

90 – Jack used to say that bein sheriff was one of the best jobs you culd have and bein an ex-sheriff one of the worst.

91 – People think they know what they want but they generally don’t Sometimes if they’re lucky they’ll get it anyways.

109 – It had already occurred to him that would probably never be safe again in his life and he wondered if that was something that you got used to. And if you did?

110 – What have you done. What have you failed to do.

123 – I think that when the lies are all told and forgot the truth will be there yet.

124 – [T]he dead have more claims on you than what you might want to admit or even what you might know about and them claims can be very strong indeed.

133 – The people of Terrell County hired me to look after em. That’s my job. I get paid to be the first one hurt. Killed, for that matter.

150 – The people he meets tend to have very short futures. Nonexistent, in fact.

158 – Young people anymore they seem to have a hard time growing up. I dont know why.

158 – People anymore you talk about right and wrong they’re liable to smile at you.

159 – I know as certain as death that there aint nothin short of the second comin of Christ that can slow this train.

177 – You’ve been giving up things for years to get here.

189 – Sometimes you have a little problem and you dont fix it and then all of a sudden it aint a little problem anymore.

198 – fear of an enemy can often blind men to other hazards.

216 – I’ve lost a lot of friends over these last few years. Not all of em older than me neither. One of the things you realize about getting older is that not everbody is goin to get older with you.

216 – They have no respect for the law? That aint half of it. They don’t even think about the law. It don’t seem to even concern em.

p. 217 – I think if you were Satan and you were settin around tryin to think up something that would just bring the human race to its knees what you would probably come up with is narcotics.

220 – Things happen to you they happen. They dont ask first. They dont require your permission.

227 – It’s not about knowin where you are. It’s about thinkin you got there without takin anything with you, Your notions about startin over. Or anybody’s. You don’t start ovr. That’s what it’s about. Ever step you take is forever. You cant make it go away. None of it.

227 – You think when you wake up in the mornin yesterday don’t count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it’s made out of. Nothin else.

234 – But there’s a lot of bad luck out there. You hand around long enough and you’ll come in for your share of it.

235 – I dont change my mind. I like to get it right the first time.

249 – My daddy always told me to just do the best you knew how and tell the truth. He said there was nothin to set a man’s mind at ease like wakin up in the morning and not havin to decide who you were. And if you don’t something wrong just stand up and say you done it and say you’re sorry and get on with it. Dont haul stuff aound with you.

p.259 Everthing I ever thought has turned out different, she said. There aint the least part of my life I could of guessed.

259 – Every moment in your life is a turning and every one a choosing. Somewhere you made a choice. All followed to this.

265 – I think by the time you’re grown you’re as happy as you’re goin to be . . . You sign on for the ride you probably think you got at least some notion of where the ride’s goin. But you might not. Or you might have been lied to.

267 – Anyway, you never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.

267 – You always pay too much. Particularly for promises. There aint no such things as a bargain promise. You’ll see. Maybe you done have.

267 – I always thought when I got older that God would sort of come into my life in some way. He didnt. I dont blame him. If I was him I’d have the same opinion about me that he does.

283 – I told my deputies more than once that you fix what you can fix and you let the rest go. If there aint nothin to be done about it it aint even a problem. It’s just an aggravation.

295 – It’s a life’s work to see yourself for what you really are and even then you might be wrong.

298 -There’s two kinds of people that dont ask a lot of questions. One is too dumb to and the other dont need to.

303 – I think I know where we’re headed. We’re bein bought with our own money. And it aint just the drugs. There is fortunes bein accumulated out there that thy dont nobody even know about. What do we think is goin to come of that money? Money that can buy whole countries. It done has. Can it buy this one? I dont think so. But it will put you in bed with people you ought not to be there with.