An Eye For An Eye

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Ever since I saw this story in 2009, I cannot help but think about it and the ramifications. The story is here:http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/02/19/acid.attack.victim/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

The story is about a young woman named Ameneh who lives in Iran. She was unfortunate enough to have a young man sit next to her in college. He purposely brushed up against her and she was outraged. It was then that he began a two year pursuit of her. He harassed her and threatened her and even asked her to marry him. She however refused his advances.
One day after work she was approaching the bus stop when she heard someone behind her as she turned around she saw him and the next thing she felt was intense pain. He had thrown acid on her face. It immediately burned her entire face, her eyes, her arms and hands. Her mother kept the clothes she was wearing which shriveled and burned too. She was left permanently scarred and blind.

She has asked her government to blind her attacker with acid in the Islamic law tradition of “an eye for an eye” known as qisas. My understanding of qisas is that when used the punishment cannot not exceed that done by the perpetrator. Recently the courts in Iran have denied her attackers appeal and he could at any time be blinded. It is my understanding that he would have acid dropped into his eyes not sprayed on him in keeping with what qisas demands. She says her request is not one of vengeance but so that he can never do the same to another person and basically to show men that they cannot get away with this type of behavior. Human rights activists are outraged. I for one have been sitting on the fence quietly digesting the facts of this case and trying to come to some conclusion, none of which appear very satisfactory to me.

In researching this issue I was stunned to find out that in Bangladesh alone there have been over 2,600 acid attacks since 1999 against woman and young girls. According to IRIN, The UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs most of these were a result of land disputes, refusals of love declarations/proposals or problems with dowries. According to human rights groups these sorts of attacks are common in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq and India. Often times women who take their cases to the courts find that they are met with disdain in which they are told that if they had only agreed to what the man had wanted they never would have had this problem.

In many countries women who have failed to dress modestly, meaning that their legs or heads may not have been covered or improperly so according to an arbitrary set of standards; have also been victims of acid attack.

Especially chilling is the story of the 11 girls and 4 teachers attending the Mirwais School for Girls in Afghanistan. On November 14, 2008 three men on motorcycles sprayed them with acid. The act was meant to intimidate the girls of the valley to remain uneducated and to stay away from school. In an incredible show of bravery almost all have returned to school refusing to be intimidated.

In 2002, parliament enacted two laws against acid violence: Under the Acid Control Act of 2002, the unlicensed production, import, transport, storage, sale, and use of acid can result in a prison term of 3-10 years. Those who possess chemicals and equipment for the unlicensed production of acid can get the same prison term.

One doctor sounded an optimistic note: “Since then, acid violence has been showing a rapid decline,” said Shamanta Lal Sen of the burns and plastic surgery unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).

According to ASF, 221 and 192 people were subjected to acid violence in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In 2000 and 2001 their number was 234 and 349 respectively.

Combating the crime of acid throwing is not easy as it appears to be a fairly common occurance in some countries. And little is done to the perpetrators except for them being ordered to make a minimal financial payment as a form of restitution. Two thousand dollars hardly begins to compensate for the intense medical care required when skin is melted and burned to the bone. Further, in a country in which beauty means so much and disability renders one invisable and obsolete, permenant disfigurement is tantamount to sentencing one to death because eventually there will be no one or no system to take care of the victim. First the victim is victimized by the attacker, then often by the courts and finally shunned by society as a whole. And the offender knows all of this and delights in it.

If it is true that prison terms have reduced the number of acid attacks then perhaps it is possible that even tougher mandatory sentences would help to decrease the number of incidences. But then again,perhaps, if Ameneh Bahrami is right, the blinding of her perpetrator may have more of an effect on stopping acid attacks than any laws presently on the books. Furthermore,if she does nothing and he attacks again her refusal to take action will make her accountable to the next victim for their injury.Lest we try to forget the man who is to be blinded is not an innocent man being used to advance a cause but he is the man who knowingly plotted and planned to disfigure and rob an innocent young woman of the life she knew and loved. He succeeded.

According to a story in the Washington Post… More than two weeks ago, Movahedi was led into court by two policemen. He showed no remorse when the court ruled on the case. When the judge asked whether he was ready for his punishment, Movahedi said that he still loved Bahrami but that if she asked for his eyes to be taken out, he would seek the same punishment for her.

“They must also completely empty out her eyes, since I’m not sure that she cannot secretly see,” he said. “The newspapers have made this a huge case, but I haven’t done anything bad.”

Ameneh Bahrami has the right to ask for an eye for an eye and has sound reasons for doing so. First and foremost her attacker STILL doesn’t believe he has done anything bad as quoted in the article by the Washington Post.

Preventing harm to others is Bahrami’s goal and it is a noble one in a country where there is no justice for women. May her goal of eliminating acid attacks be the outcome of her quest and may women everywhere never have to fear such a barbaric act being perpetrated on them or their loved ones.

As John Stuart Mill has expressed, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”

 

 

The Fallacy Of Pulling Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps

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I confess I used to be on a BB in which a majority of the people were conservative Christians. I left the group because many people on this BB have made repeated attacks on those who are down in their luck,those who are poor, and those who are anything but white, etc. They constantly espouse the belief that Obama wants to take care of all these “losers” at the expense of all these good God fearing tax payers. Of course the word, Socialism has recently been introduced to instill more fear and justify their irrational hatred of Obama. In fact one person went so far as to write:

“The poor keep getting poorer because they keep doing whatever it was that made them poor in the first place. Ditto for the rich. There is nothing at all unexpected or unforseen about the behavior that’s responsible for most of the poverty in this country. If you ignore your education, fail to develop a work ethic, do drugs, get pregnant before you’re out of high school or before you can afford to raise a child, become a petty criminal, join a gang, hang with what you obviously know to be the wrong crowd, become a drinker, or generally comport yourself like a self-loathing slob, guess what? You’re probably not going to make a lot of money!” 

The tragedy of it all…their children are ethnic minorities in this country and many insist that their white male children have it so much harder than their non-caucasian kids. WHATTTTTTT!!!!??????

So let’s take a minute and examine the above statement and those types of thoughts that go with it. Let’s examine those persons in the military/captains of business and industry who have used their parents positions/connections and money to circumvent the system to get opportunities that others deserved. They use the political and economic systems for personal gain not based on merit but on these types of connections. And they use them in order to increase their wealth and to grab power or prestige . Even worse is their sense of entitlement to those positions. It is truly mind boggling. We don’t have to look very far to find examples of these types of people. Do the names Bush  and Trump ring a bell? Frankly, these are the people that are far more dangerous to me than any two-bit hooker. Plenty of rich people hang with the wrong crowd, become drinkers, fail to develop a work ethic, etc. Yet, they have the luxury of money, connections and family to sustain them and even promote them to places they do not deserve to be. A lot of people with higher grades/SATS etc do not get into Ivy League schools where these connections are further developed and strengthened because someone’s Daddy knows someone, they have donated to the school, or their parents have attended.It’s a system that serves to preserve itself at the expense of the less fortunate.

When I think about these issues I am reminded of that fact that during the Vietnam war many kids were able to avoid serving or served in positions that kept them in the states due to the positions/connections their parents held. People can become officers in the military because they can get into the academy that “normal” people cannot or someone who is truly deserving to be there is denied due to those connections. So to try to make the case that the poor stay poor because of their “laziness” while the rich get richer due to their “implied” hard work is not often true.

But even more troubling to me is this. So many of these conservative Christians tout the “Pick Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps” mentality. And finally we have a president who stands before them having done just that. And instead of giving him the kudos for doing what they insist all people should do and using his achievements as an inspiration for others; they turn around and renounce him. So what exactly is it that a black man is suppose to do? Stay at the bottom rung of society where you are chastised and beaten down? Or rise to the top and then you are labeled an elitist and a terrorist to boot. And if the truth be told many of these people don’t want people of color to succeed because it goes against their idea of ‘what things SHOULD look like if all is right with their world.

So the next time you hear the spiel about bootstraps and Obama acknowledge it for what it really is…racism cloaked in “proper talk ” attempting to hide the fact it is just plain hate mongering. And please, stand up and correct the intentional distortion of facts that are presented as “Truth” on Fox News to the perpetrators of your conversation. For the only way that all of mankind will be free is when hate is no longer  tolerated.

The Shooting At The Regional Center Touches Too Close To Home

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As I listen to the news about yet another mass shooting I wonder where did we go wrong? As individuals, as a society, as a nation and as citizens of the world? So much hate. So much misunderstanding. Too much religious influence. Too much disregard for others and ourselves. Too much interference in other nations foreign policy with its resulting unintended consequences.

My sons are served by the local Regional Center (RC) where we live. The RC serves individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders and mental retardation. They have allocated ABA services to my boys for several years and help with planning for their future. The people who work there are kind, loving and passionate people who work within the system to get their clients what they need so that they can live meaningful lives and reach their full potential. They are social workers, humanitarians and people trying to make a difference in this world. These are the kind of individuals who work at the RC…underpaid, overworked and empathetic in recognizing that disabled persons are often beat down by a society that ridicules those who are different. Most of all they try to give their clients and their families hope for their themselves and their loved ones with uncertain futures.

In the many years we have been served by the RC many of these case workers have become my friends as we spend time together trying to navigate a system in which the disabled have an unequal playing field where unemployment is rampant and the disabled are not seen nor heard. These RC workers often become of the voices for those who have little resources to take their concerns to the forefront of the political system.

Yesterday, I first became aware that something was not right with the RC when I received a phone call in the early afternoon. I picked up the phone to hear, “This is an emergency phone call. This is an emergency phone call. The Regional Centers will be open tomorrow.” Odd, I thought. Later I turned on the news and witnessed the carnage. I was horrified moreso than ever before, meaning ALL the unending shootings that have become a way of life for a country that in of itself is not suppose to be in a war zone.

So why did this particular act of violence have such an impact on me? Because I knew of these people. No, not the people who were murdered but I do know their co-workers in a different center and I shudder to think if it had been this RC instead. How, I wondered, would I explain this to my children had it happened here? How would I make them feel like the world was a safe place after walking through RC doors for so many years? How will the clients served by the Inland RC ever feel safe again in a world that already feels unsafe by many people who are autistic? How do you explain to a child that some people just view others as pawns in a game that is played with unwilling participants? How do you teach children to trust in a world in which just anyone can randomly shoot you in a restaurant, at work, on the soccer field, or at a concert; especially a child with autism who has already been bullied one time too often in his short life? How do you make them feel safe again?

The true answer is that you can’t because the shooters have taken away something that cannot be replaced with platitudes and pundit ideology…trust and the feeling of being safe. Yet, my kids have also learned that when bad happens that the response in the face of tragedy is the opposite. So while they saw sadness on the tv screen they also saw hugs, embraces, tears and people standing together to face adversity. But most of all they saw the love that fellow human beings can show one another and that defeats everything the terrorists stand for every single time.

 

 

 

Hatred Is Not The Answer-Terrorists

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I’ve been to Paris three times during my life. The first was almost thirty years ago during our honeymoon, the second time was about five years later and recently we went two summers ago. Like most major cities, I have tended to avoid Paris because there are just too many people in too small of a place. I feel the same way about London, Beijing and New York. So when I frequent these places, I am already on edge. But usually then I meet people who have stories to tell, tears to fall and a love of life that is extraordinary and somehow these big cities become almost magical because I am reminded just how similar we all are in our shared dreams and in our desires.

The last time we were in Paris we were traveling with our children. Around the corner from our hotel was a bank of small restaurants and sandwich-to-go types of places. We entered one of the latter. It was a small place and behind the counter were three men who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent and spoke Arabic to one another. When they heard us talking with our distinctive American accents immediately their faces hardened. Then when I went to order for our family all of a sudden the place was CLOSED. They were no longer serving they told us. Yet, after we walked outside all of a sudden they were serving again to the lady who ordered a tomato baguette. So I went back in to order only to be told again that they were not open even though there were more new customers being helped. I was mad and sad about the situation but what was worse is that my children were witnessing this and wondered why they would not let us buy their food. And so I told them this:

“For some reason these men do not like us. I do not know why and neither do you. If I had to guess I would say that they were probably hurt or their relatives were probably hurt in some way by American policies or forces. They are probably still upset or angry by this. Of course, we will never know the real reason and I am guessing only to try to understand why someone would hate us even though we have never ourselves done anything to them. So this is why we cannot hate because hatred begets hatred. Anger creates more anger and people do things to one another that they should not. So I want you remember today not because of what happened but because of how we will handle it. For if we let it, the small thing they did to us will someday make us think that we can do something to someone we think has wronged us. But what is most important here is that we must remember that our lives as human beings are linked together in so many mysterious and interesting ways to people we know and people we don’t. If we allow this link of distrust and anger into the chain of humanity that we carry with us it will only create sorrow both for us and others that we will unintentionally effect by this hostility. So we must smile at those men and show them that we see their humanity even though they do not see ours.”

And so we did.

I wish I could say something changed and one of the men smiled back but that did not happen.

Tonight as I sat and watched the news pouring out of the City Of Lights I was dismayed as I listened to the political pundits demanding retribution, retaliation and encouraging a decrease in our hard fought freedoms (as if that will make things safer!) so the world will be a “better place” and I wished that they had been with us that day in Paris. For while the experience of being hated just because of where you come from was a bitter disappointment; I also know that my children learned a valuable lesson on that street in Paris that day. They realized that hatred is not the answer. I hope that calm heads will prevail in Paris and that human beings throughout the world will remember this truth too as they struggle to find a way through the carnage that they have seen and endured.