Friday, December 28, 2007

Pointing: Benazir Bhutto

Bhutto was a glimmer of the Future.

Benazir Bhutto, 1953-2007

I am not even sure what draft this is of this post. I have lost track. I have proved unable today to say who Benazir Bhutto was to me and more importantly why.

She called me this morning at 8am. Until Tuesday night She had not even known who Bhutto was. Christmas night we went to see Charlie Wilson's War. In the conversation that followed over a traditional Christmas sushi dinner the Bhutto family came up and I tried to explain the reference in the movie to the show-trial murder of Benazir's father. We went on to talk about the importance of the Bhutto family and as we moved into a discussion of contemporary politics, I tried to explain the significance and importance of Benazir Bhutto.

I admit I was not adequate to the task. I was just finishing high school when she became PM for the first time. I was much more political then than I am now and I recall being struck by her. Maybe I had a crush on her. Whatever the case, I was amazed by her. Her rise to power and her courage. The fact that she seemed unflinching in the face of constant anger and hatred that was directed at her and her family. I was struck by her election to the office of PM and the harsh light that event shined upon the reality of women in American politics at the time [recall the absolute slaughter of Mondale with Ferraro on his ticket, for instance]. In that sense Bhutto was one of the forces that led me, let's be honest here, slowly, towards feminism.

I tried to compare her to the other great female politicians of the 20th century: Thatcher, Meir, Ghandi. I noted on Tuesday night that her decision to return to Pakistan this year almost certainly meant that her fate and Indira Ghandi's would ultimately be the same - that she would in all likelihood join her father and brothers - that she had somehow, self-consciously and with courage chosen a path that would end with her murder. I had no idea that two days later...

As I said, She called me at 8am this morning. I went downstairs and for reasons I cannot fully explain cried. And cried. The gora with no ties of blood to Pakistan, the Christian who had never lived there, raised in the south eastern United States, cried. Until I was exhausted. Possibilities had disappeared from the world because - and this is the best I can manage, I am sorry to say - Bhutto was Possibility.

She was the ability to see the future beyond the horizon of life and death that seems to engulf everything.

I am no longer deeply political. Or the nature of my politics has radically changed. However one wants to say it, it was no longer Bhutto's politics that made her compelling to me. What made her compelling was her ability to return to Pakistan in October. Her ability to face forces that were beyond her capacity to contain, beyond the ability of a single will to master and bend, and to stand against those forces and point to the Future that those forces sought to deny. That they denied again today. Bhutto affirmed the possibility of a Future that was itself not bound by or to the forces that sought to deny it. Bhutto pointed!

To Allah we belong and to Allah we return.


koonj said...

For all her flaws, there was indeed possibility in Bhutto. I was shaken by the violent death.

Lawrence of Arabia said...

it was certainly hard if not impossible to be idealistic about bhutto's politics after all the issues that were present in the actuality of her two terms at PM.

and yet she still showed herself to be a remarkable person once again over these last 3months.

darvish said...

May God bless her soul and grant her peace. Amen.

Her death saddened me also, but she may become larger in death than she would have been in life. Inshallah, Pakistanis will move toward what they think she stood for, that ideal, move into the possibility, and thereby make it happen.

Ya Haqq!

paul m martin said...

I'm not so political either, but over my life, it's strange and sad to me how the political leaders both in the US and abroad that catch my attention most favorably seem on some kind of "most likely to be assassinated" list.

Baraka said...

She was flawed but her death shook me too. I agree with Irving, she has become larger in death than she was in life and thus she remains a possibility - whether of anger and violence or of democracy and betterment for the average Pakistani remains to be seen.

- Baraka

Raza Rumi said...

what a brilliant post..
You are absolutely right - more than what she did or could, or could not do, BB always symbolised hope and courage..
Pakistan is a sad, lesser place without her.

Please do read these posts when you get the time: