When I heard the news that the United States was withdrawing from Afghanistan, I was stunned. All politics aside, nobody who can successfully locate Afghanistan on a map could have feigned surprise when the Taliban expeditiously reclaimed control of the nation. My own experiences in Afghanistan begin and end in literature; I’ve been informed by the work of Khaled Hosseini, Latifa, and Rumi, among others, and by the handful of wonderful people I know who were once from that country themselves. Not long after the American withdraw of forces, my students and I learned that Nebraska would be receiving more Afghan refugees per capita than any other state except Oklahoma. I’d done a bit of work with Nebraska’s refugee communities, with student groups I’ve sponsored, as a candidate for office, and as a citizen of Lincoln and later Omaha. And so, when the Taliban retook Afghanistan and horrific scenes of anguish and terror flashed across the television, I made up my mind to do something to support our fellow human beings who would soon be landing at Eppley Airfield. It didn’t take long for them to begin arriving.

In 2022, I’m running the Kandahar Marathon. The quip is that, unlike London, Paris, New York, Chicago, Boston, Berlin, and so many other places, Kandahar, the birthplace of modern terrorism in Afghanistan, has no marathon–how on earth could one run a marathon, or even a 5K, in a nation controlled by the Taliban? The Kandahar Marathon will take place in the United States, in support of those who have fled the terrorist regime now in control of the Afghan State. I’m asking for anyone who wants to help resettle folks in Nebraska to support my efforts either by pledging by the mile, or signing on to run the Kandahar Marathon with me in 2022. You can learn more about both options at this link FanAngel or below. All proceeds will go to the Refugee Empowerment Center in Omaha, and will be earmarked for supporting our friends–and soon to be fellow Americans–from Afghanistan. 

Elie Wiesel said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

Today, Afghanistan is the center of the universe. Please join me in supporting those who have fled their homes in search of a more peaceful, stable existence here in the United States. You can sign up to receive my weekly blog to follow my progress, as well as my experiences this spring semester teaching and learning about Afghanistan. Thank you for joining me for the Kandahar Marathon, and for supporting our friends and future neighbors from Afghanistan as they join us here in America.