06 April 2007

Are you kidding me?

I was watching CNN at the gym yesterday evening, while running on the treadmill, without sound. So what I'm about to say may be completely wrong, but here goes.

It looked like they were talking about the British sailors who got to go back home....and the news story was more about what they were WEARING than the homecoming? Seriously. Dude. WTF? Let's talk about if they were injured, how lucky they are to be home, not about what they've got on. Don't ask me why that disgusted me so much, because I don't have an answer. Next!

And then I heard this on NPR. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is burning, bombing, destroying girl's schools. Why? Well, women aren't worth educating, according to these extremists. I'm beyond distressed about it. They're killing teachers, harassing students, forcing the closure of more than 200 schools nationwide.

I'm pretty sure I've told this story before, but it bears repeating. On September 11, 2001, I worked in one of the tallest buildings in a small city in Ohio. The plane that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, was in contact for a brief while with a traffic control center near us. The powers that be evacuated our building that day, sending us home around 11 am. I began making phone calls to friends and family across the country to ensure that they were safe. Towards the end of the day, I called over to Europe, to talk to family there as well. Since I don't talk to them every day, they never know from one day to the next if I'm traveling or not, so I wanted to reassure them that I was OK, my family was OK.

When I got my mamman on the phone, she asked me, "Lucy, do you think it will come to war?" Her voice was so sad, so forlorn, so disheartened. The Swedes have been a neutral country for so long that it is a deeply ingrained part of their psyche, the radical idea that violence ought to be the last answer.

And I responded, "Mama, 'we', the United States, can not just 'do nothing'. You know that." It made me sad, too, but I knew even on that day that our government would want to do something, no matter what it was, as an answer for so many deaths. And if you'll recall, even in the confusion that was that actual day, the talking heads on the news were already blathering on about striking Afghanistan.

I'll never forget what she said to me next. "But it won't solve anything. It won't bring back the people who died today. It won't change the people who hate."

She's so right. It hasn't changed or solved anything. Is the world a less dangerous place without Saddam Hussein leading Iraq? Sure. Has life improved for the average Afghani? I wouldn't give that a resounding yes. Are we foolish for being involved in wars on two fronts? Uh. Yeah.

Before the US began bombing the hell out of Afghanistan, I remember getting e-mails from various feminist listservs about life in Afghanistan for women, about the no education rule, the wearing of the burka, the way that they couldn't travel without the permission of a male relative. There was also fuss and complaining from other quarters, about the Taliban not allowing the practice of other religions, and the fact that opium poppies were/are a huge part of the agricultural infrastructure. Do you remember the worldwide uproar over this, when the Taliban blew up a sacred Buddhist statue in early 2001?

So did the Taliban need replacing? That I'll give a resounding YES to, but it seems to me that strides forward are not so quick in coming.

I don't understand why a body politic would want fully half of the population illiterate. Nor do I understand why on earth you would follow anyone who would suggest that women are less, simply for being female. But then, I am very fond of the bumper sticker that says, "Hate is not a family value." Which is usually a reference the deeply offensive idiots who claim that 'God hates f**s', but it works well here too.

So, what to do about the problems with the schools in Afghanistan? There are several organizations that could use your support. HASCO, Help Afghan School Children.Org, Help Afghan Women. Com, Women for Afghan Women.

Activism, in my ever so humble, is the best thing that we can do. Remember this quote...

"Never doubt that a small goup of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

~Margaret Mead

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