The present sometimes can be intruded upon and interrupted by the past in unexpected ways.

A recent visit to the oceanfront resort town of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina – about an 8-hour drive south of Washington, DC – provided fresh evidence. With its 97 golf courses, it is a renowned golfers’ paradise, but of little use to me because I don’t play golf. In close proximity is Brookgreen Gardens, designated as a national historic landmark founded in 1931 by Archer and his wife Anna Huntington. Our guide, Elaine, intrigued American tourists when she elaborated

that the park’s layout and architecture is heavily influenced by the impact of Muslim Spain on the imagination of Archer, who visited Andalucía in his youth. Indeed, the running fountains, gardens, and archways are redolent of the grandeur of Alhambra, albeit on a miniature scale. It was heartwarming to see the reach of Muslim heritage in the insular environment of the American South, where the US Civil War began at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, in 1861.

Today, despite the tremendous post-9/11 upsurge of western interest in the Muslim world, the political representation of Muslims on the international stage remains pitiful. In the US, too, the nearly 10 million-strong Muslim community has neither dreamt big nor built big.

A 90-minute drive north from Myrtle Beach is the sleepy small town of Southport in North Carolina. To cite Thomas Hardy, the town is so far from the madding crowd that it served as a locale for the filming of the movie aptly titled “Safe Haven.” But massive events – as 9/11 revealed to the Pakistani public and the region – even though happening from a great distance away, leave their own great impact. And an unexpected proof was to find at Southport a memorial to the crew of the American tanker, SS John D. Gill, torpedoed at Cape Fear, off the coast of North Carolina, by a German U-boat on March 12, 1942.

Even American naval veterans of World War II are not fully aware, even today, of the daring seamanship exemplified by the range and reach of German U-boats, which 70 years ago struck the US eastern coastline, sinking over 171 ships.

The barriers of physical distance and years are transcended sometimes in ways not anticipated. On the drive back to Washington, one saw signage for the Ava Gardner Museum – dedicated to the glamorous Hollywood star of yesteryears – in her tiny hometown of Smithfield, North Carolina. It warranted a visit.

Prominently displayed inside the museum was a poster for the movie, “Bhowani Junction,” proudly proclaiming that it was filmed in Lahore, Pakistan. Ava Gardner took Lahore by storm when she stayed there at the Fallaties Hotel in 1955 to film “Bhowani Junction” with co-star Stewart Granger. The museum depicted a quote in bold letters from Ava showing that, in a 50-year career, she considered her role in that movie as amongst her most emotionally demanding.

And so, too, are the demands of responsible leadership, which remains largely elusive in Pakistan, despite being blessed by talent and strategic geo-political locale. Can you get respect without self-respect?

The writer is an attorney-at-law and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He is the first Pakistani American member admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar.