Malala, and messages of compassion

Malala Yousafzai at the Global Education First...
Malala Yousafzai at the Global Education First Initiative anniversary event (Photo credit: United Nations Information Centres)

 

 

It’s probably enough to leave a lot of us — not just Jon Stewart — speechless: lovely little Malala Yousafzai reporting with a smile on her thoughts about the Talib pointing a gun at her:

 

I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’  But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.'”

There are skeptics, of course, and people back home in the once-peaceful Swat Valley who worry that all the publicity will bring more terror to their area. But I say, Go for it, Malala.

 

Imagine what might happen through dialogue. Maybe the government could even come un-shut. That is, if you use the word’s definition as a verb: “take part in a conversation in order to understand different sides and reach a solution to a problem.” What seems to happen more often in Washington is not dialogue, but monologue v monologue.

 

To come down to the issue which currently consumes about 90% of my time these days (thanks to new book): What if there could be education so girls like Malala would know about how to prevent unwanted pregnancy? And about ALL of their options should such a thing happen? Education along the whole spectrum, for girls and boys alike?

 

And then, what if there were real dialogue, as in “understand different sides and reach a solution to a problem.” One side would need to back off of the abortion-on-demand-and-without-apology stance, and the other would need to back off the ban-abortion-and-then-everything-will-be-solved stance.

 

Now back to Malala. I’m glad she didn’t get the Nobel, she’s got plenty of time left — assuming the Taliban don’t get her.  In a world of obstinate monologue and increasing brutality, her gospel of dialogue and education are a breath of fresh air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Year of the Tiger Roars in

Quick! Sweep the floors and clear the bad spirits away. Once the Lunar New Year arrives you’ll want to put off housekeeping so as not to sweep the good spirits out. February 14 marks the coming of the Year of the Tiger.

The Year of the Tiger, sandwiched in between the Year of the Cow (2009) and the Year of the Rabbit (2011) is the third sign in the Chinese Zodiac cycle. Its New Year’s Day brings with it — as all new year’s potentially do — hope and truth, good fortune and peace. Not bad for a day that this year falls on Valentine’s Day, a celebration of love and affection.

If you’re a Tiger (skip the puns, this is a serious report) you are strong and lucky but prone to trouble. Brave and courageous, caring and thoughtful but a little rebellious at times. You are in the company of tigers Jon Stewart (1962), Jay Leno and Gary Larson (1950), Judy Blume and Kofi Anan (1938), Alan Greenspan (1926), Joe DiMaggio (1914), Agatha Christie (1890) and who knows how many other brave and courageous, occasionally prone to trouble good folks.

In New York and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta there are celebrations of the New Year with parades and festivities, dumplings cooked and feasts shared, red lanterns lit and red paper envelopes of money distributed. Around the world — one nice thing about this holiday being the fact that we share it with China, Indonesia, Hong Kong and other festive sites — there will be marching music, tiger hats and lion dancers. On my block there are always fire crackers, thanks to the grandchildren of our Chinese neighbors George and Annette, popping in the street to ward off the evil spirits. Which is clearly why you will find no evil spirits around our neighborhood.

So bring in the oranges and tangerines (symbols of good luck and great wealth) and hang the red paper hearts. Kick back, nibble sweets and enjoy a good excuse to put off housecleaning.  Who knows whether it will roar or rebel, we might as well welcome the Year of the Tiger with joy… and hope.

Who really needs H1N1 vaccine?

This new piece of the H1N1 puzzle – to vaccinate or not – does seem to be the first no-brainer we’ve been dealt, especially among all the full-brainer problems floating around with no apparent solutions. The whole business of whom to vaccinate, how to ration, whether to Be Very Afraid because the vaccine is dangerous and maybe the pandemic itself is a vast conspiracy, is becoming the stuff of legend as well as news. Also the stuff of comedy.

Unless, of course, you happen to catch the virus and turn out to be quite sick. A friend in Georgia had that experience and isn’t laughing. But she is the exception (58, otherwise healthy and unvaccinated) and recovered in less than two weeks.

Here’s what seems to be a good rule: if you’re over 65, maybe even over 55, just don’t get it. The vaccine, that is; try not to get H1N1 either; with reasonable precaution you probably won’t. If all of us in this category would quit obsessing and worrying and adopt this just-don’t-get-it policy, there will probably be quite enough to go around for those who do need it: children, pregnant women, people with cystic fibrosis, healthcare workers, etc.

The pandemic could be on its way out anyway. Although President Obama has declared H1N1 flu to be a national emergency (a good move, since it freed up hospitals to pitch triage tents in parking lots, etc, if necessary, and allows other emergency steps to be taken) some experts including Ira M. Longini Jr., an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle (quoted in the October 24 New York Times) believe the peak has about been reached. “Indeed,” writes Times reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr. in that same news summary, “cases have already started to decline in the Southeastern states, where they spiked in August when schools opened.”

The best news of the pandemic is probably the fact that it has become fodder for stand-up comics and comedy shows. Once we start laughing at things they tend to whittle themselves down to sanity. My favorite message so far came from host Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, in response to some of the craziness coming from the likes of Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. What we need, Daily suggested, is a vaccine against the vaccine, so we could have peace of mind while being vaccinated. Or while passing on the vaccine altogether.

A little peace of mind goes a long way these days.