Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sometimes, the directness of children is unsettling.

They just have this way of making things plain. I am thinking of a 10-year-old white boy I met in Montgomery, AL, in 1995. My late colleague Michael Browning and I were driving across the South, visiting battlefields of the Civil War and the civil rights movement. We filed five days of reports — learned, eloquent dialectics deconstructing the Gordian knot of race.

But we never cut as close to the meat of the matter in all our thousands of words as that little boy did in just a few when we told him what we were writing about. Appalled, he said, “No fair you have to do this because you’re this color and you have to do that because you’re that color. No fair.”

His indignation felt, well … childish. “No fair?” That’s what you say on the playground when somebody is hogging the swing. It’s what you say when your big brother won’t let you have a turn playing video games. Is that really what you say about this great betrayal of America’s promise, this ugly bloodstain on America’s flag? Can something so complicated really be reduced to words so simple?

Well, as it turns out … yes.

Sometimes, the directness of children is eye-opening.

And that brings us to Malala Yousafzai. She is, you recall, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban last year for the “crime” of advocating education and equal rights for women and girls. In an authentic miracle, she not only survived, but recovered. A few days ago, she addressed the United Nations in New York and said this:

“We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many ways in many parts of the world.”

Mind you, she said other things. She said we must advance women’s freedoms. She said education should be every child’s right. She said we must stand together and be brave.

All in all, it was a remarkable speech. But at day’s end, what encapsulates it all for me was that statement about war — not the words of it so much as the fact of it, the idea of this child — she’d turned 16 that day — standing before the assembled nations of this warring world saying, We are tired of all the fighting. Cut it out.

Sometimes, the directness of children is challenging.

  • Dominick Vila

    Examples like those cited in this article give us hope for a better future, where social, ethnic, cultural, and religious intolerance become a thing of the past and people focus instead on what is best for the species, without forgetting the painful lessons of the past. Sadly, there are still some who remain intent in doing whatever they can to ensure the children, who are our future, do not get the education and help they need to become successful citizens.

    • Allan Richardson

      I agree, but please do not insult the Neanderthals. They were much smarter and more successful than the deliberately ignorant people who want to take us backwards.

  • bckrd1

    I only heard what they used for snippets in the news but what I did hear blew me away.

    The poise she possessed and her eloquence when she spoke is something we should all witness.

    Do not let this child or her family, go back to Pakistan. They will surely try to kill her again. She is a remarkable young lady and if she is allowed, she will be an icon of her generation and to womankind.

    • FredAppell

      I’m sure there are people already trying to find her. She wasn’t supposed to survive which gives her more time to spread her message. I fear for her now.

  • Allan Richardson

    The worst crimes are committed in the false name of religion. Sometimes it is by the “official” organization of that religion (as the Crusades or the Inquisition, or today’s Iranian regime) and sometimes by “mavericks” claiming to be “holier” than their official leaders (as the FLDS, Al Qaeda, JDL, and Westboro Baptist). The mass of believers in any tradition want peace, but their voices are drowned out, and in some cases silenced, by the fanatics. I can see this young girl becoming either a future Prime Minister of Pakistan, or (God forbid) another Anne Frank. The choice is in the hands of the adult citizens of her country.

    • Independent1

      Great comment Allan!! My only addition is that in your lists of those who commit crimes in the false name of religion, you passed over the largest crime organization on the planet – it’s called the GOP – and it’s filled with corrupt faux Christians who are hellbent on leading millions upon millions of unsuspecting misguided supposedly religious souls to absolute destruction with it’s cunning deceptions voiced by the many ill guided fools that promote it.

  • FredAppell

    The article keeps referring to her as a child, yes, maybe she is a child in age only. There were 2 crimes committed against her on that fateful day, her innocence was stolen and her life nearly stolen. She is more qualified than almost anyone else to speak on a wide range of topics: Women’s rights, Human rights, War and Religious
    Intolerance just to name a few. This remarkable young lady has already paid the ultimate price for standing up for justice and she survived but I fear she now has a much larger target on her back. I cannot even begin to understand the tremendous burden she has. I hope she has a long and prosperous life.

  • howa4x

    The problem world wide is how we choose to interpret religion. One way is to see the beauty in the words of each religion’s prophets that inspired us to do great things. The other way is to see each religion as the enemy of the other and hear the true believers scream death to the infidel no matter what religion it is. Each one has taken huge bites out of other ones. All of us can point to a bloody part of our religious past and no religion is unscathed. Moses, Christ, and Mohammad have been held up in front of angry people using their names to justify inhuman acts of vengeance and slaughter. It has been used constantly to repress women and children. Think of our country where women didn’t get the vote till the 1900’s and religion was used as a justification to keep them away from the booths. Or how it was used to justify slavery. Or that both sides in our civil war thought they were doing God’s work. All thought they were soldiers of Christ. Until all humans are able see the good things religions can do, the altruism , generosity, caring, philanthropy and expression of love. If not then we will only see the worst of it, and see the trail of bloodshed in gods name every night on the news.

    • FredAppell

      Now why would anyone want to try to understand each other when it so much easier to hate instead? What is wrong with you, don’t you know that everybody is out to get you? I mean seriously, what kind of world would it be without any conflict? 🙂

      • howa4x

        It would be the world I would want to live in

        • FredAppell

          It’s also the world our leaders keep promising and break that promise constantly. just like the little girl said, it’s not fair…

          • howa4x

            True that!

    • charleo1

      Well said. And, a great post! For one thing, none of the militant members
      of any of the world’s great religions, could have written it. So long has it
      been, since they have read the words of the prophets for any of the reasons
      the prophets originally spoke them. And, that includes a large, and growing population of the Christians, caught up, and mired in a religious sounding,
      familiar looking quick sand, right here in this Country. And my aim is not to indict Christianity. Far from it. I am a Christian, and my concern is for the
      Christians themselves. They are good people, and I believe they are in trouble.
      I am speaking of the Evangelical, movement. And the undeniable fact of
      it’s having become a cult. And the thing that concerns me the most, is once these big Evangelical operations get them hooked in. It literally takes over every aspect of their lives! I have family members that have gotten involved with this maniacal cult. And I’m horrified! They’ll look at the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints in Colorado City. And think, and say, how awful, these plural marriages, girls as young as 13, given to 50/60 year old men. 18 year olds that can neither read, nor write! How does this happen, they’ll wonder aloud. Then launch into a political spiel about how the Devil is present everywhere. He is responsible for everything bad that happens. He, (the
      Devil,) is getting stronger, accounting for the millions of more Gays we’re
      seeing, the increase in sin generally. And, Barack Obama, particularly.
      (That’s right, they really do hate Barack Obama.) Bent on promoting the Homosexual lifestyle in public schools, eliminating religious freedoms, and
      forcing Sharia Laws onto, “Our Christian Nation!” And this is hammered into them in what they call, “church.” If politicians like Cuccinelli seem strange
      with their obsessions about sex, and morality. I can assure you, he does not
      with this crowd. The other, I think tragic result of these, purveyors of hate,
      is many other young people are flat dismissing all religion, altogether. Becoming agnostic, or turning to atheism. And can we blame them? What
      they see is, The Catholic Church is protecting pedophiles. And, the Muslims are flying planes into buildings, and shooting little girls in the head. And the money hungry, televangelists, make fortunes spewing hate, and fear.
      And, have taken to cause their own family members to turn them out emotionally , because they won’t join in their all consuming addiction.
      It is said, Christ’s last words on Earth, as a mortal, crucified unjustly.
      “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” It was written. As Christ neared His last breath, there was suddenly a loud crash of thunder,
      and the wind picked up very intensely. Perhaps Christ’s words were not clearly understood, as He got a glimpse of the future. Could He have said,
      Forgive them Father. For I see what they do in my name?”

      • howa4x

        Great post! It amazes me that Christians in this country care more about the writings of Ayn Rand than Christ. She of course was an atheist and I could see why she would be venal, selfish and uncaring, but to hear the Republican house tell it she was a prophet. Their creed of the makers and takers comes from her and not Jesus, even though they constantly evoke his name. It is a sad time for religion in this country and around the world.

        • FredAppell

          I think our friends on the right tend to forget that all of us have been takers at one time or another in our lives. It’s very interesting when we bring up Ayn Rand isn’t it? Her very name seems to paralyze the supposed God fearing, Jesus loving right-wing zealots. They know she was an awful human being but her philosophies are too tempting for the feeble minded.

        • charleo1

          The problem seemed to start to with these Corporate
          Christians about the time Pat Robertson ran for President in
          ’88. Jim and Tammy Baker ruled religious,T.V. Using this slick, “golly gee,” folksy, format that Paula Dean later copied on her cooking show. Fact. If you like Reverend Hagee, you probably like Paula Dean. Jerry Falwell was a complete corporate shill. And, gradually the sermons, across the board became more news oriented. Drawing parallels between the troubles of the Country, even hurricanes, and what they were constantly railing aganist, as social sins. The Bible had essentially became a toolbox, where each Sunday they found a cudgel to literally demonize any group that was seen as different. Or, those groups that were inclusive of them, as well. They may as well have told the Old Testament story of,
          Sodom and Gomorra, with their own twist. Substituting a different sin that God was, going to punish, not just the sinner, but the entire Nation, if it wasn’t stopped. Get it? Now, “these people,” were hurting them! Today, it’s all they talk about. Do we really suppose it’s any coincidence, that it’s all the Right Wingers are talking about too? This has been a source of great concern to other more formally organized Churches. They are asking, and wondering the same thing. Why do they seem to care so little for those things Christ brought up time, and again? And why so much venom?
          And obsession that, above all else, they get theirs?
          Paul Ryan, the politician most of them voted for. Said it was reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, that inspired him to get into politics in the first place. I guess the injustice of those pre-schoolers, day after day, with their greedy little choppers, all over those free school lunches, after reading Ayn Rand, finally got to him. And he woke up one day, and said, if I don’t stop this, who will?!!! And the Evangelicals, without batting an eye said, “We will.” “We care about family values!”

        • idamag

          I don’t think all athiests are as narcissistic as Ayn Rand.

    • idamag

      It says in the Bible, “By their fruitage shall you know them.”

  • idamag

    “And a little child shall lead them.”