Week Fifty

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.”

~Oprah

I guess I knew people read my blog, but I don’t think I realized how many until I posted last week about therapy, medication, and my own efforts to destigmatize mental illness amidst my own modest sphere of influence. The number of people who commented, emailed me, replied on social media, or texted me directly was, well, reassuring. We’re all in this together, but it can be easy enough to forget that at times. To everyone who took the time to touch base with me last week, thank you.

Prompted by Afghans for a Better Tomorrow (weareafghans.org—I’d encourage you to sign up for their emails) I sent another letter to my representatives this week. Senator Fisher and recently-reelected Representative Bacon stand in stark contrast to one another on this point, but I reach out to both of them all the same. I went ahead and sent it to outbound Senator Sasse as well, even though his senate seat now matches his usual facial expression: vacant. He’s defected to Florida, and he’ll fit in well with the Desantis crowd, I’ve no doubt. Good riddance. Still, if he could be persuaded to do something even a little useful on his way out…

Good afternoon,

I am calling on you today to urge you to prioritize and pass the Afghan Adjustment Act (S.4787 / H.R.8685), a bipartisan piece of legislation that would give a pathway to legal status for thousands of newly arrived Afghans in the United States as well as provide support for many of those at-risk Afghans that were left behind. This bill has support from both sides of the aisle in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

For twenty years, many of these Afghans risked their lives and that of their families in Afghanistan, which ended in heartbreak when they were forced to flee Afghanistan due to the Taliban takeover of their country last summer. No one should be forced to flee their home — but now they’ve made it to America, where they are starting a new chapter in their life.

Now, they need your urgent help in ensuring that their new life in the United States is a success. As an Afghan community ally, I want to raise my voice in support of this act and to ensure that this bill passes Congress. Without this act being passed, newly arrived Afghans will have to relive their trauma and navigate a deeply complex and backlogged asylum system.

No one deserves to live in legal limbo or uncertainty as they try to navigate new life here in America. I would like to remind you of the solemn promise America made to those allies who stood alongside us in the past twenty years. Now, it’s time for America to honor its promise by passing this vital and important Act.

I welcome these new Afghan refugees with open arms. Will you do the same and stand alongside them by voting YES on the Afghan Adjustment Act?

Thank you!

Dr. Mark Gudgel

A friend texted me this week, having read an article in one of the few English language periodicals with which I’m unfamiliar, “The Atavist” or something like that.The piece was an in-depth examination of the Afghan refugee crisis in Europe, framed around the murder of three Afghan women. It focused on the relationship an tensions between Turkey, Greece, and other nations that share a border over which the swell of Afghan refugees is wont to move. For me, what the article emphasized was that as personal and localized as this crisis can seem in any given moment here in Omaha, it remains a global issue and will until it is resolved—somehow. Still, we do what we can on a local level, and hope others are doing the same elsewhere.

In Iran, women are protesting for their rights, not unlike they have done in Afghanistan. It came to light Sunday, right around the time that Messi and Argentina defeated Mbappe and France in dramatic fashion in the World Cup final, that a footballer in Iran has been sentenced to death for supporting women’s rights. Death. Rights. One is a construct, the other very much reality. Or perhaps both are reality? Or maybe both are constructs of our imagination. I hate the image that these nations paint of Islam with their barbaric treatment of women. I’ve known too many Muslims to buy into it, but I realize that so many peoples’ perceptions of Islam is dependent upon the media, much like their perceptions of Afghanistan, Iran, Qatar. The Qatari’s are responsible for the deaths of thousands of workers in their construction of stadiums in which to host the World Cup this year, yet they did it, ironically, to attempt to improve the world’s opinion of their nation. They bribed FIFA to host the games, murdered thousands in preparation, and yet somehow manage to come out as media darlings whenever the washed-up athletes who serve as commentators weigh in on them. It’s incredible really. No wonder I run.

Speaking of running, this week I ran a 10K every day, Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday intended to run a half marathon, but part way in my right knee developed a pain that went from dull and achy to sharp and stabby with alarming efficacy. I stopped after seven-and-a-half miles, totaling 44.7 on the week and 2,219 on the year. It’s probably about time to shut it down for 2022, though one of my former runners who I now mentor through Teammates is in town so I suspect I’ll get at least one run in with him still.

Next year, I’m signed up to pace the Olathe Marathon and Lincoln Marathon in the spring, and Hospital Hill half in the summer, and to run the Liberty half in the spring and the Kansas City Marathon in the fall. I’m likely to add the Napa Valley Marathon, Sioux Falls Marathon, and Des Moines Marathons to that list, and I’m going to enter the lottery for New York as well and pace a few more races this fall I’d imagine. I’m sure I’ll jump into a handful of 5K and 10K races as well, and I’m also trying to talk Sonja into a trip to Memphis to run St. Jude again, and I’d like to devote more effort to raising money for their research. All things considered, an added week of rest right now would likely do me good.

I’ve no idea what, if anything, I’ll have to report on next week, but I’ll try to get one more blog post out to you all to wrap up the year. Maybe some sort of summary. Hopefully not more of my pseudo-philosophical blathering. I guess we’ll find out. Thank you all so much for reading, and please remember to sign up to follow the blog for next year. Have a great week and wonderful holidays, everyone!

~Mark

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