Thursday, February 17, 2005

A voice in the wilderness…well, almost….

I generally figure the editorialist Ellen Goodman is good to help my cardiovascular system with spikes of blood pressure, but today I have to tell you she wrote something today that almost lent her support to her sisters half a world away. Her opinion seems to be clouded with a negative feeling about the issue (could it be driven by a severe dislike of the President?), but she managed to quote an expert that presents the reality of what has happened. “Constitution Will Unveil Status of Iraqi Women” is the title of her piece today (2/17/2005). Just a few days ago, I was thinking that not only is the Islamic world of the terrorists threatened because of democracy, but the “one person, one vote” means for the first time, Muslim women will have a voice within the culture. In most cultures, the women comprise about half of the population, so therefore, a potentially significant voice that will reflect a female view is going to emerge. That alone is exceptionally significant. It’s overpowering to witness a country being able to speak clearly through its votes, where before it may cost their life, but in a male dominated society, now the women will be able to stand up and be counted. The fruition of this may take some time, but it’s been set loose, and, in military terms, a beachhead has been established. I only expect it do nothing less than gain traction and will aid in moderating politics in that region of the world. It’s a reflection of Normandy for the women of Iraq, with the coalition forces being the allies that have been with them crossing the sand. It’s a shame that we can actually agree that NOW, and the Ellen Goodmans of the world failed to show at the ports of embarkation for the invasion. The quote from a UCLA Law professor, Khaled Abou El Fadi says “Iraqi women have been very persistent in terms of their rights. I’m skeptical that anyone will be successful in rolling back their rights. The population is too diverse, and the women too educated.” That’s exactly right. I suspect any referendum to make them relinquish their voting rights, now they have had the chance, will result in the men being rightly admonished for trying to take it away. That commentary feels like the truth to me. Back to Ellen’s opinion: “Questions about Iraqi women rumble across an America that has sent its daughters as well as its sons to battle. They echo in the words of the president who has promised that ‘young women across the Middle East will hear the message that their day of equality and justice is coming.’ But will they?” Nice, Ellen. It certainly looked like a good topic to take a shot at President Bush, didn’t it? Yes, we did send our sons and daughters to battle. First I ask, isn’t this remarkable in the course of women’s rights? Yes, it’s a cliché, but, “You’ve come a long way…” It’s true, the options of women in the military, which have been lobbied for for decades have resulted in a culture that now accepts women as pretty well equal. Isn’t that worth commenting on in a personal way, after all the passion that wanted this to happen? On one hand, the feminist movement wants the complete access to every profession and every level of the workforce, and this swipe has a sour tone. Is it because she doesn’t believe in the mission? In addition, there seems to be a question in her mind that what the sons and daughters did somehow isn’t going to result in the Middle Eastern women having equality and justice. If Bill Clinton had led the charge, would the Iraqi women’s voting right, which they exercised on January 30th, 2005 have then been hailed by her as some great historic moment? Well, I have news: It was a great and historic moment, regardless of who is president. Ellen goes on to say it’s hard to know what shari’a law really means, since different Muslim run nations interpret it differently. She lists examples of polygamy vs no polygamy, burkas vs blouses, but never does she says the open to interpretation debate on the Koran encompasses equality of women vs the subjugation of women. How strange she might leave that out. The reality is that is not open to debate, and yet, that is the fundamental issue at hand. “No less a woman’s advocate than Zainab Salbi, head of Women for Woman International,, says Iraqi women have to be prepared to follow the lead of other Muslim women in other countries and argue their rights in the language of shari’a” says the editorial. Great idea. Can you imagine a former slave, after the Civil War and the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln, making a public statement that told other slaves, whose freedom had just been bought by the blood of a divided nation, to be prepared to follow the lead of slaves in other countries that maybe had found some degree of freedom? Might not a better course of action be to find an example of women who have made great leaps forward and can offer many lessons learned and follow their lead? Once again, where is NOW when other women need them? “Women are the barometer of society. If women’s rights are pushed back into their homes, they will pull back the whole society” says Salbi. I concur. That quote ended the editorial, and there was no comment from the editorialist. That was a perfect line to lead into a battle cry for the American women to do the right thing, to stand in solidarity with the women of Iraq, to ensure their right to speak and take part in the reconstruction of a society was guaranteed. It also is a telling statement about human kind. Salbi has it right, the lack of the balanced influence in a society denies its own constituency the benefit of that very moderating influence, and they only take from themselves. So, when I first scanned the article, I was pretty pumped at the opportunity to make a positive remark, but when I really read it, it became clear Ellen let her bias get in the way of rejoicing over the fact that more of humanity was allowed freedom. I tried, why didn’t she?

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