There is a particular type of immigrant who comes to America. Back in their respective homelands, they were wealthier than 98% of the populace. They held important and powerful positions, whether politically, economically, or both. They did not live in democracies. In fact, their hegemony in these authoritarian states forced the people (sometimes with the help of foreign countries with their own self-interests) to rise and kick their sorry, over-privileged asses out of their countries. Think Iran, Cuba, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.
When these hoarders of power come to America, they talk about how they were innocent victims of evil doers, both foreign and domestic. Back home, they had a coterie of servants to wash their feet and drive their children to and from the local American school. They were always the benevolent masters to their grateful servants. No, it was the overzealous Shiite clerics, Communists, or trade unionists who caused all the turmoil. Their own actions had nothing to do with their countries' mess. Their hands were clean.
A fine example of this phenomenon is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Hosseini's family was allied with the King of Afghanistan, who ruled the country for 40 years between 1933 to 1973 (democracy at work, folks). Hosseini's father worked for the foreign ministry. He moved his family to Iran, France, and eventually, sought political asylum here in the States. Most of Hosseini's fellow countrymen didn't have the resources to even flee Kabul's city limits, let alone the Eastern Hemisphere. Lucky him.
After becoming a physician here in America, Hosseini decided to tell us a story about the brutal and violent Soviet invasion and the pure evil that is the Taliban (disclosure: I agree that they are a bunch of ignorant, sadistic assholes). Though The Kite Runner is fictional, it is clearly a reflection of Hosseini and his life. He tells of how idyllic life in pre-invasion Kabul was-- he lived in a comfortable house with servants and his father drove a Mustang, while the rest of the country lived happily as noble savages. His father, who has a fortune from an unknown source, is seen as brave, altruistic, generous, enlightened, anti-Communist, anti-Islamo-fascist, and completely innocent throughout the whole mess. The White House could not have come up with a better piece of propaganda. Bravo.
The book was an instant success. It was selling at Starbucks and Oprah was hawking it on her damned book club. Legions of mindless middle class Americans bought the book and shared their own interpretations of this compelling story at their weekly book club meetings in Dorothy's living room. It had everything for everyone. To the Bible Belt conservative, it confirmed the evil twins of Communism and Islamic extremism. To the granola chewing liberal, it showed the injustices of ethnic division and oppression. Reading it made instant Afghan experts out of your average American Joe and Jane.
The laws of media synergy and cultural exploitation meant only one thing-- the book had to be turned into a movie. Because Afghanistan was still a dangerous place (despite the fact that we had been liberating/occupying it since 2002), the movie was shot in Kashgar in Chinese Turkestan. The 127 minute snooze fest had all the elements of a bad movie-- the loss of innocence, formulaic story of redemption, tear jerking end, pervy villain, POOR acting, and a getaway scene with the bad guys obligatorily shooting out a car window with AKs. It was a celluloid disaster comparable only to the Massacre of Elphinstone's Army (1842).
Ultimately, because of one graphic scene in the movie, the Afghan child actors and their families faced a lifetime of shame at best, and death at worst, had they stayed in Afghanistan. They were not in danger because of the Taliban. They were in danger because what they did to satisfy the whims of Western media, and their voyeuristic and amoral audience, was a colossal affront to the local culture. No matter. We in the West want what we want, and we'll get it. No thought is given to the consequences of obtaining what we want. Who cares about the consequences of using ethanol, dumping CRT computer monitors in the trash heap, or watching an innocent Afghan child actor in a monstrous scene of abuse? It ain't my problem.
Ultimately, Hosseini's book and film have caused much more harm than good. It has oversimplified the history, politics, and ethnic tensions of Afghanistan for millions of Americans whose definition of open mindedness and enlightenment involves carrying a copy of the book alongside their tall decaf lattes. Once again, the official voice from oppressed lands is not from the oppressed themselves. Rather, it is from a privileged exile whose family and social network was responsible for the oppression in the first place. Worst yet, the book and movie forced young boys and their families to move out of their homes to a foreign land, all so that the Johnsons in Des Moines can make Saturday night a Blockbuster video night.