At Fort Riley, they taught us that if you compliment an Afghan about anything he owns, he will immediately try to give it to you.  I forgot that tidbit when I told this Afghan soldier that the logo on his stocking cap represented my dear old alma mater, the University of Virginia.  On the spot, he doffed the cap and offered it to me.

The Afghan codes of politeness are strong.  I’ve drunk tea and had the most civilized conversations with Pashtun locals who I know are sympathetic to the Taliban and may well have had knowledge of efforts to kill Americans.  But it would only exacerbate things here to be rude in the face of their hospitality, and we can’t detain and question them without strong evidence. 

So, the tea-drinking time is one thing, the fighting time is another.


One Response to “Wahoo-wah!”

  1. Chris Brown Says:

    Hey Pete,

    Your take on the paradoxes of Afghan codes of politeness reminded me of an anecdote about politeness codes down South.

    For a couple of years, a Gulf Coast friend of mine was working on an M.A. in History here in Bloomington. We were always chatting about differences in Bloomington and the Gulf Coast. One of his observations about Southern politeness, in particular, rang true to me. He said that he missed the fact that down South you can be around people you absolutely detest and still be friendly, joke around, and laugh with them!

    You just have to vent later!


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