POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY A YOUNG WOMAN NAMED ALAINA PODMOROW IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL
I’m sure you are a idealistic and well-intentioned young woman, but the hard truth is that what you write is not well informed.
The world is so full of injustice that injustice is far easier to find than justice.
And just one of those many injustices is the treatment of women in so very many parts of the world.
There is nothing special about Afghanistan in this regard.
The talk of women in Afghanistan was a stroke of propaganda by George Bush, and sadly so many in the world have bought into it – as you have – because, of course, there is some truth in it, but all good propaganda has truth in it to make it more effective.
The issue around women has been used as trick to gain sympathy for American troops busy killing people around the clock, including many women both in Afghanistan and Pakistan with their terrible bombing.
The truth is that you cannot change a people’s old ways and customs until the conditions that formed them are solved.
In Afghanistan, there is extreme poverty, and people live hardscrabble lives in the mountains and deserts, and they are filled with ancient superstitions. You cannot just butt your way in and tell them how they should be living and what their customs should be.
Imagine someone going to 15th century Spain – the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella, monarchs who created the Inquisition – and telling people that girls should be sent to school, and that nuns shouldn’t wear habits, and that young women should be able to go out on their own, and that wives shouldn’t be locked in iron chastity belts for years when their men go off to war. It is preposterous, and anyone attempting it would likely find himself fighting a duel or simply be stabbed in the back.
I picked Spain, but pretty much the same could be said of Italy, France, or indeed England.
As a country’s economy grows and flourishes over many years, old superstitions and prejudices begin to melt away. Everything in society gradually changes, including the status of women, and that is what has happened in all advanced countries.
But that has not happened in Afghanistan yet, and in a lot of other places.
If the United States, when it invaded Afghanistan (killing how many women and children? You will never know) had wanted to genuinely help, it would have dropped dollar bills, not bombs, to make lives better.
There are more than billion women in the world under oppressive conditions. We don’t, and we can’t interfere in every country involved. It’s impossible. So what is special about the roughly 15 million women of Afghanistan? Nothing.
Did you know that in India they have “bride burning” for unacceptable wives? Did you know poor peasants there marry off their 12 year old daughters to rich old men who are attracted to them and offer the girl’s family a bribe? And when the old husband dies, perhaps at an age no older than you, his wife does not get to keep all his wealth? And she is banned from marrying ever again and must go the rest of her life in ugly clothes, only eating certain foods?
In Pakistan, they have “honor killings” of young women suspected of infidelity by members of their own families.
Did you know that in Mexico women are brutally murdered by the hundreds, their bodies left lying in the desert like so much trash?
Did you know that in Thailand poor families often sell young girls, no older than you and often younger, to horrible men who offer them to sex tourists?
Did you know that the United States killed about a million and a half women, and many children, in its lunatic crusade in Vietnam? It killed another maybe half a million women in Iraq during its invasion. Or that in ten years of terrible American blockade before the invasion, tens of thousand children perished in Iraq?
What do you think is the condition of women’s lives in Gaza where they have endured more than three years of illegal blockade, allowing them only just-above-starvation level food stuff?
Did you know that an ultra-orthodox woman in Israel cannot divorce her husband even if he beats her, and that if he chooses to divorces her, he gets to keep her children? She is left without meaningful status.
I could make a very long list of these horrors, but my point is made, there is nothing special about the women of Afghanistan, as you have incorrectly been told.
So dedicate yourself, as we all should, to helping women everywhere, but not by invading someone’s country on the coattails of the United States, or anyone else, who has killed tens of thousands with its military horrors.
From another reader:
“You can’t rely on Canadians to do the heavy lifting in Afganistan [sic]. We will leave that work, as usual, to the U.S. Hopefully they will help you.”
What a terrible comment, echoing, as it does, George Orwell.
For “heavy lifting” read mass killing.
For “We leave that work, as usual, to the U.S. .” read Canada is not in the mass murder business, with, by the way, a twinge of regret that it is not.
“Hopefully they will help you.” Oh, yes, a country threatening to go under from all its economic and financial excesses, a country which is literally burning money on bombing and needless brutality.