Admirable Women – The Roses of Reform

22 02 2011

We have watched transfixed for over a month as autocratic, in some cases outright totalitarian, regimes quake in the face of popular uprisings for democracy and freedom. First Tunisia’s Ben Ali and then Egypt’s Mubarak were forced from power by the people they had long oppressed and, as I type this, the Libya’s Gaddafi seems like he too will be joining the list of ex-dictators. As we watch the protests, we see among them many women. This is no small thing. In many of these places, rape and other forms of sexual abuse are used as a disciplinary tool by the pro-regime mobs and even in some cases law enforcement and military officials. These women risk beatings and shaming as well. While it doesn’t sound like much here in the US, being dubbed “a shame to your family” has major consequences. It could mean that your family has to pack up and move as quickly as possible. You might not be able to marry the person you love – or anyone, for that matter. Your family could disown you and, in countries where inequality is not only accepted but in some cases institutionally sanctioned, it could be very difficult to provide for yourself without the support of you relatives. The risks are significant and far-reaching, yet they keep returning to the squares and rallying points because they have voices and they want the right to be heard. All of these women should be admired for risking so much for the chance at a better future.

Tunisia

Egypt

Libya

Bahrain

Yemen

Jordan

Iran has been in some level of turmoil since the highly contested June 2009 elections. Women have been at the forefront from the beginning of these waves of protest.

The message on her hands reads “Women=Men”





Old Enmities, New Violence

13 07 2010

There was violence in the streets in Belfast yesterday. It was the same old grievances being acted upon by a new generation of fighters. I just don’t get it.

As a small child, I remember watching the news as Ireland and North Ireland fought bitterly on the screen. It really upset me because the place where the fighting was going on didn’t look very “foreign” to me. The buildings and homes looked just like areas of the city in which I lived at the time. The people didn’t look very “foreign” either with their jeans and sweatshirts and baseball caps and sneakers. I asked my grandmother why they were fighting and she tried to explain the split between Protestants and Catholics and how two groups who were so similar could hate each other so much and for so long. She did a pretty good job, but that didn’t make the fighting any more sensible to me. I must have been being a pain because my grandmother finally looked at me and said “Every little boy and girl in the world is born the same. No one is better or worse than anyone else. Those people weren’t taught that.” I remember that so well I can almost hear and see her saying it.
Time marches on – I’m now an adult, or should be anyway, with a great interest in world events and foreign policy and my grandmother has been gone for several years now, but this conflict makes no more sense to me now than it did all those years ago in the kitchen of our small, old house. It’s so senseless and it’s been going on as long as I’ve been alive and for ages before that. There are plenty of conflicts that are older than me – Israel/Palestine springs immediately to mind – but, while I find it hard to justify any of them, this one strikes a particular chord with me. I’ve read about it and talked about it and learned about for years, but at the end of the day, I’m just as confused and disgusted as I was when I was following my grandmother around our kitchen peppering her with an endless stream of questions.

There are some articles from the BBC here, here, here, here, and here. I’m sure there will be a statement made by someone of governmental importance and I’ll update with that once I find it.





Commendable Behavior From Someone I Don’t Expect It From

10 06 2010

I’m not exactly what you’d call a fan of Nancy Pelosi and not just because I think fandom and politics go together like potassium and water. Sometimes she says and does things that just irk me. On occasion, I shake my head and think “And she’s third in the line of succession.” Still, I like and admire her tenacity even though her stands are sometimes to my left – not impossible, but no easy task either. I’m not bothered by the fact that she’s more liberal than I am. Hello! She’s the congresswoman from San Francisco not the Bible Belt. I’m still supposed to stagger back in sheer amazement at her liberalism? I don’t think so.
Honestly, the biggest argument for my lack of a strong opinion of her is that her being re-elected or not is simply out of my sphere of influence. I don’t have the money to donate to any campaigns and I don’t live in her district, so it’s not up to me whether she stays in Congress or not. I am also not a congresswoman, so I have no power to choose the Speaker of the US House of Representatives. It’s all out of my hands and I, unlike so many, refuse to flip out over elections in which I cannot participate. Now, if I had a substantial income and were able to donate significant amounts to campaigns all over the country, well then, my tune would change but I’m just a spectator at this point.

So what could move me to applaud someone whom I am otherwise unlikely to comment on one way or the other? Grace in the face of bad behavior. This is what made me actually proud of Nancy Pelosi.

She was being heckled by healthcare activists and Code Pink, but the issue she’s discussing isn’t what has me singing her praises. It’s the way she’s handling the uproar that I admire.
Last summer, when senators and congress people went home to try to sell healthcare reform, many met with strong opposition in the various town-hall meetings they held and their reactions generally fell into one of two categories – fight or flight. They either got just as belligerent as the protesters and got into verbal sparring matches or they ducked out as soon as a few loud hecklers started crowing. Speaker Pelosi did neither of these things – she calmly delivered her speech. Even when her security detail came up to the podium and said that the demonstrators were throwing things and the speaker should leave, she waved them off. “I’m not leaving.” And she didn’t. She delivered her half-hour speech in full though her security people were anxiously standing by.
It’s got to be obvious at this point that I generally have no soft spot in my heart for hecklers. It’s a wimps form of protesting. Standing in a crowd of people and just squawking takes no conviction. Standing holding a sign where everyone can see you or standing up in one of those meetings, stating your name and outlining all the problems you have with a particular proposal requires some gumption. If you feel strongly about something, you should have the wherewithal to stand up and take ownership of what’s tumbling forth from you mouth. Anonymously yelling grievances, or insults, or whatever at some politician, in my opinion, is nothing more than a cheep attempt to get on TV. “Look at me! I’m the stupid jackass at the [insert politician’s name here] rally!” It’s nothing but rude and gets even worse when people start throwing things… at a seventy-year-old woman… whose daughter and baby granddaughter are in the audience. Oh yeah, that’ll gain you a bunch of support for your cause. Real classy!

For standing up to asshats without losing her cool, Speaker Pelosi gets a gold star!

Nicely done.





Beware the Righteous Indignation of Asshats – When “Tea Party” Meets WWF

22 03 2010

Ok. At 11:something pm Sunday, the healthcare reform bill passed the house 219-212. That isn’t in any way an opinion or me being an evil, liberal, ideological, [insert string of politically motivated invectives here], it’s a fact. I like some things about the bill. I don’t like some things about the bill. That’s not what I’m here to fuss about at the moment. I’m here to fuss about wingnut asshats, however, I feel I must first define the term asshat. This definition is from Wikitionary.com and can be found here

Asshat – n. From the slang expression having one’s head up one’s ass, thus, wearing the ass as a hat.

Now that we all know what the word means, let’s look at some current events. Vandals broke windows at the offices of some Democratic Representatives and one Democratic Committee headquarters in New York’s Monroe county. In one of these incidents, a message tied to the brick used to break the window quoted Barry Goldwater’s 1964 speech at the GOP convention – “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” I don’t know about you, but I find that statement frightening, not patriotic. Also, there are reports of racial and anti-gay slurs being directed at democratic members of Congress and the Senate. Apparently some of the representatives were spat at as well. Let’s hear it for civil discourse. While I’m on the topic of civility, I have to also point out the misdeeds of the left as well for the sake of fairness and because this is equal to the others in terms of the capacity this story has to leave me asking “what the hell are people thinking?” Back in September, at a healthcare bill rally in Thousand Oaks, CA, a anti-healthcare bill had his fingertip bitten off during a fist fight with one of the bill’s supporters. I do believe in the right to protest and that dissent is the highest form of patriotism, but spitting, biting, and busting out windows are things I can not condone. That is not dissent. That is not protest. It is pure thuggery committed by hyper-political, over zealous asshats. I do hope that incidents like these stop, but I’m not overly optimistic. Knock it off, people!