HBM077: Snow on Date Trees, then on Pines

Muhammad Tariq still doesn’t know who the men with guns were.  They wore masks on their faces when they came into the teachers’ lounge.  His small, gender-integrated school in Panjgur had been anonymously receiving literature that scolded them for teaching girls.  Tariq and the other teachers didn’t take it seriously until the six men showed up.

While they beat the maintenance worker with the butts of their guns and smashed the office’s computers, one of the masked men mentioned that he knew who Tariq was, that he knew Tariq’s history of educating Pakistani girls, his plans to turn them against true muslim religion and culture.  

After just fifteen minutes, they were gone again.  Tariq doesn’t know why they didn’t take him with them, as his province of Balochistan sees regular abductions and murders and sectarian violence (see documentary below).  Balochistan is also home to separatist movements, notably the hyper-nationalist Baloch Liberation Army.

Estimates for numbers of the disappeared Baloch people vary greatly, from 1,000 to about 20,000.  Since 2010, Human Rights Watch has documented first hand accounts of disappearances, which often happen in broad daylight.

Flag of Pakistan’s Balochistan Province

Flag of Pakistan’s Balochistan Province


Documentary on Balochistan conflict, from Al Jazeera

After the incident in his school, Tariq feared for his life; said he needed to get out of Pakistan.  So he applied for and received a J1 visa, a cultural exchange program run by the US State Department.  After the visa expires, J1 recipients are supposed to return to their home countries.  

In 2015, Tariq took a plane from Karachi to Washington DC, and when his J1 program was up, he filed for asylum with a personal certainty and faith that it would be granted to him.  The USCIS is supposed to schedule asylum interviews within 45 days, with a final decision within 180.  But (as of April 2017), the wait time for the initial asylum interview is an estimated 2 to 5 years.  

Until Tariq gets that interview, he’s in a state of limbo—legally allowed to stay in the United States, though unable to find good work or afford college.

Tariq moved to Seattle, where he met his fiancé, Catherine Adams.  She hadn’t ever met a Muslim before, and she had a conservative, christian upbringing in rural Oregon.  She'd only ever heard and seen negative stereotypes of men like Tariq before they met. But they fell in love quickly and are planning to get married late in the summer of 2017.  They’ve since moved to Catherine's small hometown of Medford, Oregon.

On this episode, producer Jeff Emtman met the couple for a dinner of Pakistani biryani and apple pie, just three days before their move from Seattle, to Medford.

Music: Lucky Dragons | | | Serocell | | | The Black Spot | | |  AHEE

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HBM074: Benedict Arnold Makes People Nervous (Rumble Strip)

There is an unusual piece of carved grey stone in the hills of upstate New York.  It depicts the boot of a notorious American villain who was shot in the leg during the Battle of Saratoga.  Major General Benedict Arnold’s name is nowhere to be found on the inscription.  Instead, it refers only to the "most brilliant soldier of the Continental Army”.  The rest is implied.

Steve Sheinkin thinks that we can’t—and don’t—talk about Benedict Arnold’s actual history because it serves Americans an unpalatable contradiction.  Benedict Arnold won crucial battles for American independence, but he was also a turncoat.  

Steve was often asked to sterilize history during his career as a textbook writer.   Certain characters of the American Revolution enjoyed near godlike status.  Giving counterevidence to their omniciencense or foresight was practically blasphemy.  But that counterevidence exists, found in letters and personal journals of George Washington, Paul Revere and others.  And these records paint much more conflicted, funny, perverse and sometimes bumbling portraits of the country’s forefathers.  

But Steve’s bosses found it an issue of money.  His editors were especially risk-averse for fear of offending a seemingly all-powerful Texas State Board of Education, who, according to Steve, had no patience for course material that questioned manifest destiny, Protestant Christianity, or the free market. 

And that, Steve says, is why textbooks are boring.

Author Steve Sheinkin.
Image courtesy Erica Heilman/Rumblestrip

Steve Sheinkin is now the author of many children’s history books that tell the stories left on the cutting room floor of his former employer.   Recent releases are about the history of the atomic bomb, the permanently undefeated Carlisle Indian School football team, and, of course, Benedict Arnold.

We adapted this episode of Here Be Monsters from a brilliant piece by Erica Heilman that she made for her own podcast, Rumble Strip.  Rumble Strip is great, listen to it.  It’s part of The Heard.  Jeff Emtman re-edited this piece with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White.

Music: Swamp Dog | | | The Black Spot