Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hillary, Mother Jones, The Girl in the River

This morning I am thinking about women. 

I have just read a New York Times piece in the Sunday Review by a woman who wants to love Hillary but finds herself ambivalent, which runs right next to a piece about Bernie Sanders, his deep but very narrow appeal. The reservations this erstwhile ardent Hillary advocate voices are inchoate. What she is really seems to be  saying is it's so much easier to love a purist than a compromiser, a knight errant driven by passion for righting wrongs, than a pragmatist who will not spit in the eye of the oppressor but will sit down with him and negotiate. 

She does remind us of Hillary's performance at the Benghazi hearings, where she sat, unruffled, through the smarmy, slimy, absurd rantings of the Republican jackasses across the floor from her and with withering clarity made fools out of each and every one of them.

Yesterday, after watching a public television program about the vile history of the destruction of miners' unions in West Virginia, I read about one of the giants of that struggle, Mary Jones, Mother Jones.  Mother Jones walked into mining towns in West Virginia which were built, owned and ruled by mining company owners and were nothing more than plantations where the slaves mined coal instead of picking cotton. She was engaging in a battle as quixotic as that faced by Bernie Sanders, trying to rally the down trodden against all the coordinated forces of money and power. 
 When the miners responded to the machine gun and rifle fire of the owner's private enforcers with shootings of their own, Mother Jones was arrested, tried, convicted, ultimately set free and she trudged off to fight more battles elsewhere in West Virginia and in  Colorado.  
By today's standards, she was no feminist: She believed women belonged in the home, raising children, but she believed to protect the home, women had to get out into the world and work for labor unions, harass strike breakers and "raise Hell." She thought suffrage beside the point, saying, "You don't need to vote to raise Hell."

And then there is the story about the documentary "A Girl in the River" about a Pakistani woman who defied her parents by marrying the man she loved, to which her father responded by abducting her, pointing a pistol at her head and pulling the trigger, stuffing her body in a bag and throwing her in a river. She, miraculously, survived and the father was charged with attempted murder, but in Pakistan, this was called an honor murder. Had he been a better shot and killed the daughter and had he been charged, he would have been set free as long as the rest of the family forgave him. 

He is still  proud of his deed, even though he did not succeed in murdering his daughter, he says the rest of community now respects him for restoring honor to his family and, furthermore, no other girl in their family will ever consider trying to marry for love, rather than marrying the man their father has chosen.

This story made me think of the woman who is at the center of the Europe which is currently receiving the flood of young, mostly Muslim men who are deserting  Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria in search of a better world. Angela Merckel, the woman who is the President of Germany is exercising her power to welcome men fleeing the collapse of societies ruled by  intolerance,  13th century notions of "honor" and male dominance.  The same value system which brings chaos to the Middle East, that system of belief which places women at virtually the same level of existence as cattle or, at best, dependent children, which is defended by fathers with guns aimed at the heads of their daughters, which forgives and embraces murder when it is done to defend male pride, is no different in its cruelty and malevolence from that of the mine owners whose paternalism justified their enslavement of coal workers. 

Nobody should vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a woman. 
I still prefer Bernie.

But who can deny that when you tally up the points, women do tend to be the drivers of positive change in the world?

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