Monday, July 07, 2014

Turning a Blind Eye

This morning I engaged in a heavy discussion with a dear friend of mine who currently lives and works in a third world country for the Peace Corps.  There is a practice there where the young men of this village go through a 6-month initiation school to learn how to be a man and herd animals.  They are then sent out into the hills to put what they’ve been taught into practice.  As they go, they often ‘abduct’ a young girl from the village, take her to the mountains, gang rape her,  and then one of the boys (whichever the one has enough money/cows) will marry her.  They give the family an agreed upon price of cow/livestock/money in exchange for their daughter.  

My friend told me the story of a young girl who had been washing clothes by the river with the other women from the village when a group of herd boys on horses snatched up the young girl and took her into the mountains.  No one did anything because it’s the accepted practice in that remote and uneducated area.  My heart breaks for that young girl, not only for what she had to endure in those mountains, but for the life she will now have to live, married to one of her rapist, never given the choice or freedom to fall in love, be respected as a woman.  I understand the purpose of the practice – to exert dominion in order to control. It’s what all animals do. Men have been doing it since the beginning.

There’s something inside me that weeps and gets angry every time I hear stories like this.  Perhaps it’s because of my western upbringing, having been raised in a free society and know the taste of freedom.  It’s not that I don’t understand these people are just following their ingrained and long traditions.  But, do they have no soul?  Regardless of their ignorance of western civilization, our laws, and culture, there is an inner consciousness that knows when you hurt another human being that what you’re doing is wrong.

It would be easy for me to place the blame squarely on the ignorance of these young men or the culture in which they live, but it wouldn’t be fair or accurate to lay it only at their feet.  The only time that there has been a societal or cultural change in the treatment of women has occurred is when the women of that culture decided to make a change.  We contend with what we allow.  While the girl being raped has no choice in that activity, what she does from that point forward is her choice.  She either accepts it, or she fights back.  I’m not naïve and know that fighting back may cost her life.  I also know that change doesn’t happen with one battle over night, but several battles over generations.

While for some of us – the days of Hagar, Leah, Abigale and Tamar are over, for others that’s the reality of the day.  What an odd world we live, where paradise and purgatory occupy the same place.  I weep for the young girls who’ve ever experienced this type of brutality.  I also weep for the young men who were pressured or taught to engage in such activities in order to prove their manhood.  I weep for the society that accepts such practices, and I weep for a world who turns a blind eye.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

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