Friday, October 12, 2012

...for Malala, for our daughters, for our sons


New York has the Met and MOMA. Paris, the Louvre. 
But my favorite gallery is in the galley: my refrigerator door.

My three-year-old grand-daughter, whose artwork is currently on display in the kitchen, is much loved by her parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins, for starters. Each day her teachers work diligently to love, teach, and discipline the little ones entrusted to their care. Miss Dawn friended me on Facebook so that she can share Ciara's play school pictures with me. Ergo, Miss Dawn is my new best friend.

At three, play and learning are synonymous. When the time arrives for big school, Ciara will have had lessons in socialization and an introduction to basic skills. She and her classmates have already been to the zoo, to City Hall, to the Fire Station...to name a few of the outings. They've cooked. And pouted, sulked, and semi-brawled a few times. And I can tell you how this played out in the long run, at school and at home. Last year, I told Ciara not to reach for the mail basket on the entry table lest she tip over a large lamp. She stretched her hand out again while looking at me, one eyebrow raised. I repeated "No" and said, if she tried again, she would be punished. The third time was the charm. I called her name. Before I could say another word, she turned around and crossed the living room into self-imposed exile. As she stood nose-to-the-wall in the corner by the fireplace, I thought to myself, This kid's been in time-out before. I'm thankful she has loving, consistent boundaries into her life. She will be freer and happier for the discipline. Show me a consistently contrary, bullying child and I'll show you one who wants reasonable structure. Show me a child who cowers and I'll show you one who has been controlled, abused, broken.

Ciara has what we so readily take for granted...the right to go to school. I recently wrote this to a friend: The day after my grandfather - a south Georgia farmer - died, I saw an elderly man walking up the driveway, starched and ironed with a nice summer hat. My grandmother saw him and went outside to meet him and bring him inside. His vision was failing and could no longer drive. So he had walked five miles in the August heat  - in his Sunday best - to pay his respects. These two families - one white, one black - had lived a mile apart on a red clay road past Gum Swamp. In other words, a long way from anywhere. When the influenza pandemic swept through their community in 1918, both families were taken ill. At separate times. So they took turns cooking broth and cornbread to leave on each other's front porches. Helped each other plant and harvest. In short, they depended on each other for survival in the harsh post-Reconstruction, depression-era south. But equity didn't exist. For example, only one could vote when they first met. Of the two couples, three of the four people didn't meet the prerequisites: wrong race or wrong gender...or both

Both our daughters as well as our sons can now vote. We strive to educate all and struggle with how to do this better. But this morning halfway around the world a young girl fights for her life...for what we take for granted. On Tuesday afternoon, 14 year old Malala Yousafzai was shot by a masked gunman who climbed aboard her school bus and called out her name. For three years she has championed the right for all girls to attend school, an action the Taliban calls "an obscenity". They have promised that, should she live, they will try again to kill her. She has been give a 70 percent chance of survival.

My heart is with Malala and with her family. How brave these parents are. And heartbroken. While I cooked breakfast this morning, I looked at Ciara's drawings and struggled with this latest cruel chapter written in blood.

To my brothers and sisters in Pakistan who are praying for Malala: you are not alone. Hearts are joined with you in your country's day of prayer for Malala...and beyond.

To those of us in the west: There are people in every culture - i.e., here - who demean humanity and offend sensibilities. Decadence and pure evil know no boundaries. When we question criticism from other cultures, we are left with the uneasy knowledge that our actions speak louder than our words. C.S. Lewis' allegorical novel, The Screwtape Letters, features letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a demon-in-training. They are charged with leading their victims to eternal damnation. Wormwood wants grand temptations. But Screwtape believes in a different approach: "He is not interested in getting the patient to commit anything spectacularly evil, saying that 'the safest path to hell is the gradual one'. He considers it a demon's primary goal to befuddle confuse, and eventually corrupt a person rather than to tempt," saying, "[God] wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them." [1]

We are our sisters' and our brothers' keepers...or nothing at all. 


Ciara, I'm adding another picture to the refrigerator door. 
You're in good company, my sweet granddaughter.

Malala Yousafazai
THIS is the face of bravery.

Pass it on.




...and from one of today's prayer vigils in Pakistan
courage and beauty



Photograph of Malala: 121010025930-sayah-2011-interview-malala-yousufzai-00015013-story-top

Photo of prayer vigil: Shakil Adil / AP


1 comment:

Jeannette said...

Thanks for adding your caring and sensitive voice on this...