Hands Across the Water
It’s no secret that relations are strained between the United States and Pakistan. The Wilmington Rotary Club and its Pakistani counterpart are working together to change that.
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It was late September and I was having Sunday dinner with relatives at my parents’ house, when conversation turned to some of my recent writing assignments. I told them I had a good one coming up: a bus trip to Washington, D.C., with a delegation of seven Pakistani businessmen.
I explained that the men were all members of the Lahore Mozang Rotary Club, and that they would be visiting the United States during the first week of October on a seven-day mission to build “person-to-person relationships” with members of the Rotary Club of Wilmington and, ostensibly, the rest of the state. We would be visiting the State Department and the Embassy of Pakistan. The conversations, no doubt, would be charged with the sort of high-minded, world-changing theory I love so much. Seemed to me like a great way to spend a Friday.
But before anyone could share in my excitement, one of my cheekier relatives chimed in with, “Pakistanis? On a bus? To D.C.? Hope you’ve got life insurance.”
This relative of mine is no bigot. He was making a bad joke. But his quip illustrated the kind of thinking the Pakistani delegation hoped to change during its visit to the states.
Most of the news coming out of Pakistan over the last several decades has been, in a word, bad. The basic narrative goes something like this: Ever since the United States withdrew its troops and aid from the country following the Soviet-Afghanistan War in 1989, relations between America and Pakistan have been strained; its relationship teetering on the verge of collapse. And with the current U.S. war in Afghanistan waging seemingly without end, all of these vagaries have only escalated.
The trickle-down effect of this sticky bilateral relationship has resulted in what State Department officials like to call a “significant trust deficit,” not only between our respective leaders, but also between our citizens. The stereotypes go something like this: Americans view Pakistanis as impoverished, antagonistic, Islamic terrorists in the making. Pakistanis view Americans as brash, unyielding, uninformed champions of global domination with a Judeo-Christian worldview.
But if the Rotary clubs of Wilmington and Lahore, Pakistan, have anything to say about it, that’s going to change.
Page 2: The Solution