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A new year's resolution

The New Year is upon us and once again I find myself wondering where time has gone. It seems just days ago I sat on my easy chair, watching television and regretting

my second helping of pecan pie on Thanksgiving. The holiday season seems to pass so quickly. It's already time to consider New Year's resolutions. As I think of resolutions of the past, they don't seem to have the same impact this year. So much has changed. Instead, I find myself contemplating what New Year's really means. Unlike many of our traditional holidays, the meaning of New Year's is unclear. Although it is the world's most celebrated holiday, it lacks a single central theme. It is a collection of good intentions. Perhaps, New Year's is simply a yearly detour on the road to self-improvement, enlightenment and finding happiness. A new beginning we are allowed each year. This year, New Year's finds us at our absolute greatest. Bangladeshis have bonded together to show their pride and patriotism for our amazing country. We are new Bangalees in a New Year. Let's ring in this New Year with an unconquerable will. Let's continue to support our servicemen and women; let's boast our unwavering patriotism; and let's continue to proclaim confidence in our Prime Minister.Here are a few suggestions to keep your New Year's resolution on track:

#1: Don't try everything at once. Odds are in your favor, if you begin small. Consider sending an encouraging message to troops deployed away from home. Or perhaps scheduling more frequent phone calls to friends and family.
#2: Be flexible. Allow your resolution to grow with you throughout the year. Don't make a specific resolution that does not allow for change. Fewer specifics wording such as "this year I will express my patriotism" provide room to challenge yourself to be creative with your resolution throughout the year.

#3: Make a plan. Search for ways you can volunteer. Help by filling-in roles left behind by those deployed away from home. Devote a specific amount of time to any causes you choose. And ask friends and family to join in the act.

There's no reason why we should continue to make the traditional resolutions to lose weight and get organized. But it is my hope that we will also focus our resolutions on developing the true spirit of Bangladesh.

All over the world people are facing many troubles & difficulties. Recent terror attacks have taught us the importance of embracing every-single-day. Remember to smile and laugh every chance you get. The soul needs to be balanced, as well as the scale.

Don't pass up an opportunity to make a difference in someone's life. And most importantly, don't leave anything unsaid. Let's ring 2004 as a nation united and rebuilding together.

By Samiha Esha

The epitaph: what have we written on their graves?

This particular 16th December was no different from the other eighteen I've experienced in life. However I think that this year, it's different celebrating a victory day because so much has happened in the last few years. The war in Iraq, for one.

I got into an argument with someone in an open forum over this issue a few days back. Now this esteemed gentleman, who's never experienced war, was all full of himself and explaining to the world at large how the Coalition of the Willing was doing the right and moral job.

At that I couldn't help but make my point. The movers and shakers of the world are all very good at talking the talk, but how many of them have actually walked the walk? This gentleman demanded an explanation, called me a lot of uncomplimentary names and finally the biggest "you're a Muslim, all Islamists are terrorists..." and so on.

I put it plain and simple, that I have a nationality, and that my mother tongue had been earned at the expense of the lifeblood of 3 million people. So I'd appreciate it if he'd refer to me as Bangladeshi first, Muslim second. I never saw a response to that.

We'd been Muslims in 1971, too. I don't recall any Arab states extending their full hand of friendship due to our Muslim majority. Come to think of it, I didn't see any olive branches from the Americans either.

Now with the capture of Saddam Hussein, the whole world's full of ideas on what to do with him. Do we try him? Hang him? War crimes? The questions are never ending. It's very strange; he's one dictator out of millions.

What happened to war criminals of the Pakistani Army? What happened to the collaborators? Where was this much vaunted justice then? Fine, those days are gone, but what about now? Three decades gone past and still we have nothing to show to the families who sacrificed so much. We have still done nothing to prove to the martyrs that indeed they haven't died in vain.

Reading the newspapers, we can all easily discern between the insurgents in Iraq and the poor, hapless victims. And who are these insurgents? In another time, we would've called them freedom fighters, but apparently that term is banned when any country fights against the United States. So, yes, they fight in the name of Saddam but who're we to decide if they're wrong? This one also, I put forth on the forum. This time a highly educated woman replied "they're supporters of Saddam. They HAVE to be wrong."

I just had to write back. 'Pretty much the whole nation's against the troops. Does it make all of them insurgents? If they were fighting against Saddam would THAT make them freedom fighters?"

It took a while for a proper response but one finally came. "Yes."

I laughed. "And why is that?"

Again another very eloquent speech of what horrors Saddam had put the Iraqi people through and more of such rhetoric. So, I stanched it and just plain replied. "So you'd think that all those that fought against dictators and oppression are freedom fighters? Any minority trying to fight back evil is considered as 'good guys' in your lingua franca, would be recognized by the United States of America, self-appointed watchdog of free mankind?"

More hums and haws. I waited for a response for five days before she came back with "yes, of course. We in the USA demand equal rights, blah...blah...blah."

Since I was waiting for her to fall into that, I sealed the trapdoor shut with every example of double standards I could find where the much vaunted US Administration's ever dealt in. The list is long and worth a read. She hotly refuted such claims as did about 21 others. I mentioned Bangladesh. Where was the US administration then? What did they do for the freedom fighters? What did they do for the refugees? What did they do, in general?

I am very rarely overcome with emotion, and those who know me would laugh at my statement that I felt tears as I wrote these down. No one dared reply. Of course, the above mentioned gentleman came back with a blow under the belt. He wrote. "Isn't Bangladesh the most corrupt nation in the world?'

My rage was such that I wasn't very coherent. I probably didn't make much sense but I lashed out, saying that whatever may be the status of my country today, it doesn't detract the sacrifice that the country made back in 1971. And what does corruption have to do with my statements anyway?

A few other posters apologized profusely for such a low blow. They condemned the implication that even while Bangladesh is the most corrupt country in the world, it doesn't mean that whatever I'd written before or will continue to write is untrue. They published newspaper articles from previous archives, and generally did their best to stop making another one of their country men from looking like such an immature fool.

I can accept all of that but it got me thinking.
I had no defense. What could I have said that wouldn't have made my position worse? I don't have to tell the readers that the posters there already considered me beneath them because of my 3rd World country status. The few attacks made on my posts were proof of that. So what could I do? And all this over an Internet forum.

I can't help but think about what sort of discrimination the Bengalis are facing abroad. And what do they do? How do they defend themselves? Whatever the martyrs of our Liberation War wanted, this was not it.

Yes, there has been some progress made. We've got success stories in quite different aspects of the economy. We're not just known for our corruption anymore, they're a number of positive things that can be said. But even with all that, where the hell are we as a society?

The case of Simi Banu was just one of those things that blatantly highlight our failure. That girl had no reason to die and every thing to live for. If we don't do something about this godfather-type of action from street hoodlums with political connections (and who don't contribute to ANY part of the society, if I may add) now, so when will we?

After another five years down the line? Ten? Who will come to power that would unite all these warring factions in the Parliament and give us a chance for uplift?

Not to mention the Ramna carnage on Pahela Boishakh. There used to be a time when dancing and singing was considered abolished by God. Yes, I'm talking about the Middle Ages. A little reality check to all those who think we're still stuck there - we're not. We have earned the right to celebrate our beginning of the year and no religion prohibits that. No religion should.

Our politicians all wear different masks. Our Speaker insults the opposition Leader crudely in front of a full house of representatives of the country. We even fail to host a global function successfully. Crime rates are rising higher and higher every year. If the Operation Clean Heart wasn't a proof of this, I don't know what is. Not to mention the Banskali carnage only a few weeks old. We seem to have forgotten all about it. How could any civilized society allow something like that to take place? And this is merely one example of law and order, out of thousands, in Bangladesh at the moment.

So what exactly do we offer the rest of the world to see? What have we given them to talk positively about us anyway? I'd cite examples of heroism of our martyrs but the word 'martyrs' in itself gives me away. They're gone, but who's come to take their place?

As 2005 approaches, only a little more than one year way, we all look with pity at our dying industries. The day free trade begins is the day our garments sector will die. We've been warned ten years in advance.

If the governments had taken even the slightest precautions, we wouldn't have been in this situation. If the garments sector goes, so will our export earnings. And if we were thinking that bad times are already here, we clearly have no idea what's coming up.

Bangladesh prides herself on secularism. But what is this latest menace of declaring Ahmadiyas as non-Muslims? That power has only been given by Allah. For the first time, I was proud of what our minister did. It doesn't matter if they're Muslims or non-Muslims; as countrymen, they deserve the same respect that we expect from other citizens. There shouldn't be any confusion about that.

I didn't mean to write up a lecture. I didn't mean to put Americans down and I certainly didn't mean to draw parallels between Iraq and Bangladesh or between Iraqi guerrilla forces and our freedom fighters.

It upsets me no end when people think that fighting against occupation forces is wrong and immoral. Until and unless you belong to that country, you have no right to order its citizens to do something according your whim.

A few years ago, I didn't hear kids my age talking about politics and making plans. I heard them talking about western fads, going abroad, getting a degree. But now there's talk.

A lot of teenagers I know, who's reached a certain age of maturity, know where we're heading, what we are and what we've left behind. And they're not afraid to dream big.

Let's find those graves and let's carve something on to it that proves that we haven't forgotten and that we've not forgiven their killers either.

By Ornila Rahman





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