Friday, March 25, 2011

Just Making a Living

While looking at a recent issue of National Geographic, I ran across an article about the so-called war against opium in Afghanistan.  One photograph really captured my attention.  It shows a woman, her face covered with her hands, surrounded by her four weeping children.  In the background, the Afghan police are destroying the opium poppies in her field.  She is a widow; the poppies are her only source of income.  (Here is the link to see the photograph; it's the seventh one at the top of the page.)

I live in a community that for several generations has depended upon income from tobacco.  Our state sells "Tobacco Heritage" license plates.  Tobacco is a source of pride throughout the area so you can buy all sorts of decorative items for your home that incorporates this theme.  As I looked at the photograph of the Afghan woman in her field, I wondered how tobacco farmers in our community would react if the police raided their farms and destroyed their crops, sometimes their only source of income.  

Don't get me wrong; I know that illicit drugs can destroy lives.  However, tobacco, although legal, can be just as destructive.  Many individuals in my community sport the tobacco heritage license plates and fill their homes with tobacco paraphernalia, yet are very passionate about supporting cancer research.  I wonder if they see the irony in it.  And I wonder how they are any different than the farmers in Afghanistan, just trying to make a living.  Perhaps what we need to do is look deeper into the problem, look at what is driving the demand for the drugs and the tobacco, address the issue, and find new ways for people around the world to make a living.


Kalee said...

I love this post. My husband in Iraq are discussing this over skype. What most people don't understand is that she may not have even been selling it for the illegal drug purposes. Many medicines still use opiates in them. However, in Afghanistan there are farmer's who are sanctioned and those who aren't (and I'm sure getting sanctioned is expensive, something unattainable for a single woman). The government there leaves the sanctioned fields alone, while burning and destroying the unsanctioned ones, even if there is no connection to illegal drugs! (and that doesn't even go into the illegal ones who pay people to look the other way. It tends to be the small people who get harassed.)

Cherie said...

Kalee, thanks for your comments and for pointing out that not all opium poppy growers are doing so illegally. I finally got around to reading the article that accompanied the photograph and it talks about how some fields are left untouched while others are destroyed. And it talks about all the politics, both in Afghanistan and the US, that goes into it. So sad for the widows and children.