A year and a half has passed since the August evening when an overpriced shuttle dropped me off at Phelps Gate. Throughout my time at Yale, I have often been struck by how well this campus makes me feel at home in a country that is not mine. I did not grow up speaking English, and I cannot donate to the yearly Yale-Harvard blood drives despite Dean Miller’s many emails, but I have very rarely felt alienated from those around me simply because I come from somewhere different.
Last Thursday was an exception.
That afternoon, I attended a talk by a Yale Law School professor, Oona Hathaway LAW ’97, on the legality of drone strikes. It was informative; Hathaway’s knowledge of the issue was excellent, and her arguments were convincing. Throughout the talk, however, something kept nagging at me. I knew we were all there to discuss the legality of the issue, and not the morality, so I could not understand why I still felt uneasy. It was during the Q-and-A session that it hit me — a student asked Hathaway how soon she thought drones would reach “closer to home.”
The talk had been organized by the International Students Organization and was attended by students hailing from across the world. But when we discussed the possibility of drone proliferation “at home,” we meant only the United States. I thought back on the home I left in January, where we discuss drone strikes over dinner tables and in daily news bulletins. I looked back and remembered the children that died, the resentment that invariably rises, the bruised, indignant sovereignty. Drones reached my home, Pakistan, many years ago.
Back in November 2012, I sat talking to another Pakistani at Yale about the upcoming American presidential elections. “Who do you want to see win, Obama or Romney?” I asked. “Their policy on drones is very similar, so I don’t care much.” His reply bothered me. I was puzzled at how anyone who planned to live in this country for years to come could remain aloof from such an important event.
Last Thursday, Hathaway explained how the U.S government broadly defines “militants” killed by drone strikes as “all military-age males in a strike zone.” Many believe it’s an effort to reduce the official civilian casualty counts. From my friend to the U.S. government, apathy happens everywhere.
Right after the talk, I attended a dinner with a guest of the Yale University Art Gallery, along with curators and art students. They were discussing recent trends in visual and literary arts, and someone pointed out, “Oh, drones are all the rage nowadays. They’re everywhere in art.” Again, I was unsettled. A traumatic and debilitating reality for many abroad was being used to feed the need for fantasy, innovation and wonder in the art studios of New York City or Boston.
Do I believe that such attitudes will easily change? No. Hathaway’s talk convinced me that drones are here to stay, given their efficiency, relatively lower costs and the very obvious fact that they eradicate the need for “American boots on the ground.” Among friends and classmates who continue to turn a blind eye to their government’s abuse of power abroad, I can understand the apathy, at least partially. It is not easy to worry about issues that do not remotely affect us, especially when we live in an insular college community and face various academic and emotional concerns of our own everyday.
However, there are some of us who are torn between this place and another, a home less peaceful than here. And it’s frustrating. We call this campus our home regardless of the color of our passports, but issues of national identity and foreignness creep in from time to time. For many international students who come from regions adversely affected by U.S. foreign policy, there are realities beyond the confines of this campus. Try as we might, we can’t ignore them.
Dur E Aziz Amna is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .