Women’s Rights: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I watched the devastating footage from Kabul today. I found myself crying, afraid for those left behind. I especially have concerns for the interpreters who worked with the United States during the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and beyond. It wrecks me to think that people who risked everything to help us will be left behind to certain death. There is no easy way to exit a war that cannot be won, but what we saw today was heartbreaking, desperate people clinging to their last bit of hope as it rolled down a runway.

I spent a fair part of my day stuck on thoughts of the women of Afghanistan, women who for the past 20 years have felt something of a taste of freedom. Young women, who have never known life under Taliban rule, are watching the futures they had hoped to imagine slip away. In all the footage today, I noticed there were no women in the streets. The women were home, hiding from the horror of their future. This will sadly become their new normal.

The United States currently ranks 20th in women’s rights. I am disappointed by how far behind other nations we are in terms of equal pay, maternity leave, and personal freedoms. But when I think about the Afghan women, I am incredibly grateful for the freedoms I have known by grace of having been born a woman in the United States and not in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, or Yemen. The United States might not be the best, but we’re far from the worst.

This world can be too much for my heart. Many days I struggle to find a smidgen of internal peace despite the tumult on the planet. Today was definitely one of those days. I dig myself out of this depression by focusing on gratitude. I had nothing to do with being born here. I, quite simply, lucked out. I may whine on my blog and in my life about my minuscule struggles, but I know how fortunate I am. If you can’t be born a white woman in Scandinavia, Canada, or Switzerland, the United States is still a lucky draw. I have been given a gift I didn’t earn.

I will hold the women of Afghanistan in my heart as I go about my daily life, a life any of them would be grateful to inhabit. They deserve more, and it breaks my heart they will now have so much less.

4 comments

  1. Very eloquently written, as always Justine. You have such a way with words that speaks just to what I’m feeling. And thanks for the reminder that the way to dig out of this depression I’m feeling right along with you, is through gratitude.

    1. Thanks for your kind comment, Gail. Gratitude is the easiest way I know to get out of my head and to a better mental place. It’s easy to get swallowed by negativity, but gratitude seems to adjust my attitude when I am feeling down.

  2. Thank you for an incredibly thought-provoking post.
    It goes without saying that I second your sympathies towards people in war-torn and left-behind places.
    When it comes to America, by and large I declare it to be the greatest country in the world. Recently I coined something of a catchphrase for myself, to wit: “I love America, even when it’s fxxxxxd up.”
    One great thing about America is that it still has open borders. We welcome foreign investors that know we are a tremendously productive society. We welcome foreign students who train among the greatest medical professionals and scientists in their fields for careers that will shape our future. We welcome the poor and destitute, as well, and those seeking political asylum. I believe the words on the Statue of Liberty sum it up nicely.
    We’re not always perfect at it, grant you, but the door was open 150 years ago for the descendants of the last Kings of Ireland when their country was stolen from them. And so this story goes for many immigrants, whose progeny now enjoy entirely American lifetimes while sporting names like O’Connor and Trimarco, Nigel and Van Valkenburg, Yarkony and McGuire, Nowicki and Wogsland.
    Perhaps your people came here to seek fortune, perhaps mine, too.
    Or perhaps they fled from persecution and slavery and dictators and war and strife. Perhaps they sold everything they owned and left their mothers and fathers and siblings behind. Perhaps they stowed away on a ship with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
    It remains to me the world’s greatest mystery how free societies continue to emerge and grow and bloom across our planet. America is not the only proof that freedoms and open marketplaces perpetuate populations that generally continue to raise their standards of living generation by generation. Yet simultaneously there exist holes in our world. Some in the oldest-settled lands on our globe. Places where people still starve and suffer horrid diseases and indignities and live subsistence lives.
    I guess this is a wish that all those of whom you speak could come to live here. Some will.
    And 150 years from now, let us hope, worlds such as these will be nothing but history lessons.

    Slainte,
    (FYI: That’s Irish for “Health”)

    Paz

    1. Paz,

      I believe the US should be a place that brings people hope. I know we can’t take everyone who would like to be here, but we should be more open to it. My ancestors (entirely Eastern European — Polish/Czech) came to the United States around the time of WWI. I am grateful they made the arduous journey. I agree with your sentiment about the US being the greatest, albeit with some issues and poor choices. Every nation has made mistakes and missteps. I hope the ideal of democracy continues, but only time will tell.

      Zdrowie,
      (FYI: That’s Polish for “Health”)
      Justine

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