Once again, Afghans are being used as a way to better Americans. This falls into a pattern that is constantly reproduced in large and small ways: through characters in this sitcom, United States of Al, by the actions of the creators, and through the war in Afghanistan. Afghans do not solely exist in relation to the US military. For all of the conscious years of my life, I have only ever seen Afghans and Afghanistan in the mainstream media being portrayed as a warzone. Afghans are depicted as the only people impacted by war and saved by Americans, when the US is one of the reasons why our country is still in shambles.
One of the panelists last night said that this show was not about the military - it was about friendship. How is this true if the two main characters are a veteran and his translator, and when every other joke is about the war? The title card is an animation of an army jacket being embroidered - to say that this show isn't about the military is false. It is clearly another show in which Afghans only exist in the context of war.
Also false is the assumption of a shared experience based on being "brown", as another one of the panelists (likely Aslan) brought up. As an Iranian-American, he said, he could relate to the frustrations of the Afghan community. Where was he to advocate for Afghans and Afghan-Americans before he decided to produce a show about it? The producers encouraged Afghans to share their thoughts on the show, but when Afghans disputed on Twitter, all they had to offer was condescending retorts.
Once again, Afghanistan is not just an arena for war. Every time I see a movie, show, article, or book about Afghanistan it inevitably centers around the war and reduces our people into chess pieces for the US military. Americans, is this really how you see us? Dehumanized objects who are only ever shot down and never people who lift themselves up? Afghans, will you settle for this dehumanization and caricature?