I saw a movie years ago, a documentary about battle in Afghanistan in the Korengal Valley between deeply entrenched Afghan and US troops. In the film the Korengal Valley is deemed to be the most dangerous place in the world. Having not traveled a whole lot, I can’t say whether or not that was true. What I can say is that I can see why it would be in the conversation. The Korengal Valley was a constant cacophony of large and small weapons fire and human struggle. Though it has been many years, and I may have some of the facts a bit wide of accurate, the resonant parts are with me today.
The Afghan and US troops were trapped on hillsides over looking the valley to the degree that getting supplies in and out was extremely perilous, making the fight for survival a complete constant. In the valley was a small village that bore witness to the entirety of the fighting. The documentary was named for a soldier that was killed immediately upon arrival in the Valley, and I suspect his death gave the film makers direction for their film. My thinking is they were documenting the struggle before his arrival.
Every part of this film was tough to watch. The extreme violence, the utter lack of quiet, the harsh landscape, and the scenes of interaction with the villagers made you want to watch through your fingers, as it seemed very well made. Even with all of that, one scene sticks out to me today more than the others.
There is a scene of a goat on the side of a hill that has just come down due to large weapons fire. The hill is really a pile of rubble. The goat is nosing around for food it appears. At this time, it occurs to me that the only sign of life I have seen in the Korengal Valley is human. There is nothing green, no trees that look alive, literally the people are the only thing that is alive. And this goat. Next, I asked myself, wait, what is the goat eating? What is it looking for? How does it survive? Then, with horror it occurred to me that one (or all) of the villagers likely wakes up daily and wonders whether to struggle for food for the goat so milk is available, or eat the goat to to satisfy his or her own needs for food. Lastly, it occurred to me that I have never been in that place. From the most rural to the most urban areas in this country we mostly awash with resources. In this country there is simply more available. The ability to survive is 100 (1000?) times greater than the Korengal Valley.
The harsh reality of it all has stuck with me, and has prompted me to believe that every one of those villagers would be awash with gratitude to be in this country. I can’t even imagine their expressions if they were to be able to spend even a spring in Lexington, or Tacoma, Nashville, Biloxi, San Diego, or …