Erasing the History of Buddhist Afghanistan One Mine at a Time -- Sightings (Brent Huffman)
A decade or so ago, before the Afghan War began, while the Taliban were in power, we grieved at word that they had destroyed a series of giant statues of the Buddha. We grieved for a number of reasons -- because it seemed to be an attack on a particular religion, but also because it was the destruction of wondrous artifacts that had stood the test of time -- like the Parthenon in Athens. More recently we heard about the destruction of parts of Timbuktu in Mali -- again it was religious extremists, and we grieved both for the attack on a religious community (this time Sufi Muslims), and the loss of historic treasures. As a historian I am always loathe to see such things happen. Now comes word that in the interests of economics (copper), a major reminder of the Buddhist presence in Afghanistan is about to be erased. I invite you to read and consider what this means. How do we balance economics and history or religion for that matter. What is important? Does the past count? Brent Huffman offers the first of two Sightings responses to this question.