Just finished watching tonight’s Women, War & Peace, the five-part series on the toll of war and even the toll of working toward peace that women pay. Tonight’s episode, Peace Unveiled, was about the women of Afghanistan and their plight over this last 10 years of the US-led war there. (Indeed, it’s the 10th anniversary of the war this month.) Unveiled was an unflinching look at the very real danger that is all around the women of Afghanistan and especially those who stand up and speak out on behalf of all women in their country. It was interesting to see how much more dangerous life is for the Afghan women now that the Taliban has been ousted and there have been peace talks.
“For the women of Afghanistan, peace has never looked so menacing,” the narrator, Tilda Swinton, says at one point.
And as Unveiled unfolds, you are taken into a world that feels completely foreign — and not because of the language and culture presented. It is the very sense that there are no safe spaces. Ever. Anywhere. That being a woman is the most dangerous identity that a person can have. This is a place that in times of post-Taliban “peace,” acid is thrown on the faces of girls going to school and teachers find death threats on their doorsteps each morning.
“I feel the pain of each woman still living in unsecured Taliban [controlled] areas,” one Afghan woman said.
It seems to me, sitting on my comfortable couch in my American-suburbia home in America’s adult playground, Las Vegas, that the most courageous thing to do is to be living while female in Afghanistan. I am beyond White Guilt. I am beyond apologetic American. And that Bible passage about removing the plank from your own eye before you help your neighbor with the splinter in his eye, floats into my mind. No more so than when we see Ambassador Karl Eikenberry — a rich, white man — tell a room full of Afghan women who are seeking aid that they must think about the hearts and minds of Americans, because they have suffered, too [because of the Taliban]. Oh the almost villainous level of obtuse douchebaggery!
But this also makes me think about how high the stakes are. There is a scene with a young girl — a toddler not much older than my own — who wants to leave the house with her mother and plays under her mother’s head scarf. It is the simple scene that happens in homes all over the world where a toddler lives. The innocence of playing dress-up in mommy’s clothes and begging to go out with a toddler’s exuberance for adventure. But it highlights the stakes for the women who, quite literally, risk their lives to vote, to run for office, and who dare speak in the public forums to bring attention to the plight of women in Afghanistan.
“I will never stop. I will do this with my dying breath,” we see that same woman say later as she plays in the grass with her child.
And it makes me wonder of my own convictions. Of my colleagues in the activist community. Of yours. Do any of us have that kind of bravery? Because if we want to be so all-mighty as to “save” other countries, shouldn’t we be some kind of example? Shouldn’t we be — I dunno — “winning” in our own backyard? Because when I watch the news, it doesn’t look like America’s winning right now. And it definitely doesn’t look like we are valuing women equally to men. Honestly, it doesn’t even look like we like women, at least not pregnant ones.
This has me thinking about all the Occupy Wall Street protests happening across the country. How bourgeois is that, right? We mobilize in the streets because wealth isn’t distributed fairly in a country that even in a deep recession is far richer than so many places in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I hate that corporations are considered people, under the law. I think our capitalist system is rife with corruption and inequality. There is a lot of bullshit going on. That’s undeniable. And it’s wrong. And it’s even worthy of protest. But when you compare our Occupy protests with the work that women are doing just to — let’s be real here — fight for their very lives, for the very freedom to exist in a state of free will and to have some sense of a guarantee of personal safety in life… well, suddenly the Occupy protests seem a bit, well, douchey.
I know that speaking even slightly ill of the Occupy movement is going to get me in trouble with many of my progressive readers. Indeed, one poll shows that the movement has found support by 43% of Americans. And like I said, I do support the intent behind the Occupy movement. I do believe that there is a corrupted, powerful minority of people in this country who hold a disproportionate amount of power. But somehow, it doesn’t compare to footage of a woman being stoned to death simply for being… well… a woman.
No more blind leading the blind. It’s time to take the plank out of our own eye. We owe it to the women who are fighting for their freedom, sometimes with their dying breath.