Freedom to Live, Read and Write While Others Die Trying

Posted on July 16, 2014

I have been following the story of Malala Yousafzai, the teenager who was shot in the head by Taliban insurgents in Pakistan for wanting an education.  She is a hero to me.   She went toe to toe with the Taliban and lived.  She is now working to bring attention to the plight of the 200 girls that were kidnapped by a group of Islamist militants who go by the name of “Boko Haram”.  This young lady who went through a near death shooting has healed and now at 17 years old, she’s working to change the world for the better.  Instead of ducking and covering and hiding from everyone, Malala is out in front of the public, speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves.  She places herself in harm’s way, speaking for a young girl’s right to have an education.   After the press coverage about the kidnapped girls  lessened, I would have thought that women of influence would have continued pushing ahead to bring about relief for these innocent girls.  I would have expected American news stations to be bringing world-wide attention to the deliberate burnings of buildings with young girls inside, girls who only wanted to have an education.  As for the kidnapped young girls, other than the kidnappers, no one knows what they are suffering just because they wanted to learn to read and write.

If history has taught us anything, it has taught us that oppressed peoples of any race, ethnic background, male or female will only remain oppressed for so long a time.  When the break away happens, the back lash from those formerly oppressed can be so severe it can cause the collapse of a way of government and lifestyle for any country.   As someone who has studied American history I know that it reveals that for decades upon decades, education of girls in our own country was seen as a waste of time.  As for women being of importance in our society,  does the term “barefoot and pregnant” bring up any memories of those past times?   I lived through a time when beating and slapping one’s wife around showed the neighbors that “he” was the man of the house.   This same man would then get up the next day, get dressed and go to work, acting as if all was normal.  To him and others that lived in the neighborhood, it was normal.  As a child, I remembered seeing these women on different occasions with blackened eyes, bruised and beaten bodies and each had their own look of defeat.  It was not openly discussed but I did hear a comment that I still remember to this day.  “She’s just too smart for her own good.” would be the answer given when someone asked why things like that happened.  As a kid, I didn’t understand what being too smart for your own good was, so I just concentrated on making sure that I just got smart.

Having a German Granddad helped me to develop a love for the written word that has continued throughout my life.  I can never remember not knowing how to read.  I owe that gift to my Granddad.  After a hard day’s work, he loved sitting with his newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee.  Whether it was on the glider swing on the front porch or in the house on the couch near the big oil stove, his paper reading was an evening ritual.  My Mom said that many times she walked by and would see Granddad and me sitting together, with me reading to him the farm reports and certain stories.  As I spoke the words, he would correct my enunciation and if I asked him “Grandad, what does that word mean?”  He would explain it to me.  Nestled under his arm, he and I shared so many times reading that to this day, it is with loving memory that I recall those precious times with him and how fortunate that I was to have him teach me.

My Grandma was also a lover of the written word.  By the time I was five, I had discovered her “Reader’s Digest” magazine and then the “Reader’s Digest Condensed Books” collection.   In my little bedroom, I had ground-squirrelled all manner of reading materials.  Trust me, I was one of “those children” who wound up getting sent to my room for one thing or another that I had done.  “Go to your room and Don’t come out until I tell you to” was my cue to go into my room and close the door.  Once in there, I would dig out a book and lying back on my pillow, off I went into the magic land of stories about all kinds of things.  Walter Farley wrote a series of the “Black Stallion” books.  I ate them up like they were sweet cake.   By the time I was ten,  I had read the book, “The Robe” which was a novel about the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, written by Lloyd C. Douglas, so many times that I could play pretend and be different “good” characters in the book.  Deep voice, I was Marcellus and girl voice, I was Diana.  I could picture myself walking up into heaven with my husband holding my arm and the clouds all around me.  Later, when I saw the movie, I was really glad they didn’t show how Marcellus and Diana died.  Loved that walking up into the clouds, headed to see Jesus!  I read that book over and over until it fell apart.  Then I would read different sections of the loose parts.  Besides the Holy Bible, there is only one other book I have read over and over to the point that it cracked it’s spine and fell apart.  That book treasure was James Clavell’s “Shogun”.  Physically, I have never left the shores of America, but thanks to books, I have traveled all over the world.

I personally think that some men, especially those in the professional world, are intimidated by women who read well and ask questions designed to ferret out information that is not readily forthcoming.  It has and continues to be my experience that when I research and gather information, these same types of men, panic and drag out their ” I’m large and in charge” voice so they can squish me like a bug underfoot.  Well, back when I was a much younger “sweet thang” they could get away with that type of behavior.  Now, it just ticks me off and turns me into a word and fact finding talking machine that slings words back at them like a carpenter using a nail gun to tack down boards.  Look, back then,  we baby-boomer women were trying to get fair and equal treatment in job selection and money paid for those jobs in line with what men were being paid.  We could not afford to be at a “loss for words”.   It was a tough time to be female.  I had been born just a bit too early for the scholarship money that would be turned loose about three years after I graduated high school.  I had to go to work and for me, having a job and working hard at that job would have to be my way to get ahead in the world.   I chaffed at the bit that held me back.   I learned the meaning of the phrase “too smart for your own good.”  Men were more comfortable not knowing that I had an opinion different from theirs.  If I appeared to be too smart, the job I would be seeking would go to someone else.  I learned to use the word “fair” only when talking about the weather or how I felt.

Then along came my friend, Margret.  She and I both loved to read and like me, Margret knew the meaning of the word, “Work”.  She also had a way with giving the final word on a subject that was priceless.   One day Margret and I were sitting on a loom in a weaving plant and threading a new warp into the eyelets of a warp frame.  George came over and true to his nature, started a whine that Margret and I had heard more than once.   “Nobody treated him fair. It was hard on a Black man to work in this world [the 70’s].  On and on it went until finally, I told him, “George, you are a man.  You ought to try being a woman in this world today.”  Just as he was getting ready to spout off some more dribble, Margret jerked the heddles apart and looked him square in the eye and her words sealed his lips shut! She said, “George, I can go one better than that!  You ought to try being a Black woman trying to work in this world today.”  She gave him the look that went with the words and he made a quick retreat away from her stare.  He was out of earshot when I looked at her and she looked and me and we lost it.  We each knew what we had said was true for each of us, but the bond that we shared was that we were women.

Different colors, different ways, bound together by the fact that we were women and we were best friends.  I loved to hear her laugh.  When she hugged you, you knew you had been hugged.  Twenty years older than me, intelligent and a very attractive single woman who was taking care of her elderly Dad.  I worked with Margret for several years and greatly benefited by having her insight into things I faced as problems.  The passage of time saw her Dad passing and Margret moved away.   She came into my life offering friendship and a chance to learn how to live life and not waste life.   With Margret, I was a sponge and I soaked up advice from her like sand does water on a hot day.  I was the better for having her as my friend.  She said I made her laugh and that was good for her soul.  I guess we had a good trade of life skills for humor.  She is still in my heart of memories and will stay there as long as I stay here on earth.  I have no doubt that as I enter Heaven’s gates, I will hear that familiar and beloved laugh and we will celebrate our meeting once again on God’s golden road.

For now, though, I am of this world.  I live reading stories about girls who are being killed just because they are wanting to learn to read and to write down their own thoughts.  Who is going to stop the evil men from kidnapping girls and taking them into a land of no return?  We live in a country that stands against child abuse.  What about the families torn apart, weeping endless tears for daughters gone into the unknown.  Can anyone explain to me why their calls for Mommy and Daddy are going unanswered because no one in a position of authority is stopping these evil men?  Evil can only exist when we allow it to be.  If we know of its existence and we do nothing to stop it from happening, we have to share the blame for the evil that happens.  It doesn’t matter whether it is the kidnapping or burning to death of girls wanting  have an education or you see a child being  called stupid while hearing the slaps of a hand hitting flesh and the cries from the child begging “please don’t hit me”.  If you choose to let it happen, you are as bad as those doing the deeds.  I stepped in and stopped the beating of the child.  Hollywood is always looking for a cause of the moment.  Will someone in the press wake up and put their cameras to work?  Will the offer of free publicity be enough to get the power people to step in to help girls like Malala?  Is it too late to save the lives of millions of girls who want the right to have an education?  If no one steps forward to help Malala, history will show that,  once again, we failed to protect the innocent from evil.  It is a sad legacy to leave for future generations to read.













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