January 01, 2008

Is Abu Muqawama Actually Pashtun?

Abu Muqawama's Pashtun flatmate is convinced that your humble blogger is a fellow Pashtun and not an East Tennessean of decidedly Scottish descent. His latest "evidence" is pulled from Robert Byron's diaries (this is Byron writing from the road to Oxiana, somewhere in "Pashtunistan"). Anyone who personally knows Abu Muqawama's alter ego can attest that much of this description is dead-on ... at least the bit about the nose. Not the eye make-up, though:

Hawk-eyed and eagle-beaked, the swarthy loose-knit men swing through the dark bazaar with a devil-may-care self-confidence. They carry rifles to go shopping as Londoners carry umbrellas. Such ferocity is partly histrionic. The rifles may not go off. The physique is not so impressive in the close-fitting uniform of the soldiers. Even the glare of the eyes is often due to make-up. But it is tradition; in a country where the law runs uncertainly, the mere appearance of force is half the battle of ordinary business.

Abu Muqawama's personal appearance aside, the more he reads this passage, the more the Pashtun lands of the early 20th Century seem a lot like East Tennessee circa 2007. Byron could have very easily been describing Abu Muqawama and his cousin walking their way through the sporting goods section of the Wal-Mart in Soddy-Daisy a few weeks ago looking for .45 ACP ammo. No kidding, the differences are not so pronounced.