It doesn’t have to be a holocaust to be hurtful

I was over at a friend’s house and picked up 1000 Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.  It shows the recent history of Afghanistan seen from the perspective of two women. 

In reading the story of Mariam, a rejected illegitimate child and abused wife, I froze emotionally.  I used to be quite good at freezing emotions until I became pregnant.  Since then, I can cry over comic books.  Before that pretty much the only time I could cry was at church altar calls.  But as I read, I froze inside once more.

The images of the book haunted me as I tried to fall asleep.  I began to imagine a myriad of rescues for Mariam just to cope, just to keep from falling into the lifeless quiet beyond emotion.

I was chiding myself for being so affected by this story, but I refuse to say it doesn’t matter.  My heart broke for this woman who represents far too many women, children, and men.  A person who has had her spirit broken.   In her case, it was because she was a woman and her father didn’t care about her.  She bore the brunt of a cruel abusive man’s emotional immaturity until she was only a shadow. 

She was a candle burning under a basket, starving for air.  Covered. 

I don’t think it was only my imagination which caused me to react to her.  I was remembering.  Now, I have never been beaten or humiliated as so many others have.  That doesn’t mean I can minimize attempts to cover me with someone else’s garbage.

Saying that any hurt that isn’t visible doesn’t count is an injury all over again. 

My mother was attacked by a sexual molester as a teenager.  She brushes it off as if it were nothing- nearly denies it even happened.  After all, she technically wasn’t raped, so it couldn’t have been that bad…

Bullshit.  (I’ve never actually sworn before!)

I am not going to allow myself to freeze up again.  I am going to cry in rage and mourning for the Mariams of the world.  For my mother.  And for myself.

And then I will find something to do about it.

10 thoughts on “It doesn’t have to be a holocaust to be hurtful

  1. Quester says:

    Sounds like wonderfully healthy reactions to some of the world’s horrors.

    I have been trying to reclaim my emotions for 19 years now; you may be able to choose to never freeze up again, but if it ends up taking longer than instantly, you won’t be alone in that.

  2. Zoe says:

    I’m 54 and for the last 9 1/2 years I’ve been finding my emotions. It hasn’t been a joyous experience. It has most likely saved my life.

    When I first started blogging about Islam it was because I saw parallels with Christianity. I felt there was a legitimate comparison. Perhaps not as many Christian women had died at the hand of so-called pious religionists trapped in a medieval cultural belief system…but it seemed to me; though they were alive, they were very much in fact, dead. The walking wounded.

    I cannot read these books without becoming quite ill at the truth and reality of such craziness that women have endured and how men can just shut their brains off regardless of what Allah says and willingly do what they do. But I have to admit that a big part of me has been worn down by it all. I once spoke out and wrote onnline about this stuff; but fear grips me. Fear silences me and it infuriates me because I want to get in their faces and say, ‘What the *uck are you idiots doing?’


    • theo(il)logical says:

      “Religion” in and of itself — be it Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, The Secret™, etc. — may not be the problem. Let me explain:

      When talking about injustice perpetuated by religious persons, “religion” quickly becomes a symbol for some ultimate evil. It is reasoned that if religion could be done away with, all would be well. In this view, moderate or less literal interpretations of sacred texts does little to mediate the evil of religion, because religion itself — that is, by its very definition, or in its essence — only leads to trouble.

      An other way of understanding “religion” is to stop essentializing it. That is to say, to see “religion” as something that overlaps with other things such as “culture,” “ethnicity,” “politics” in such a way that it becomes difficult to determine where one of these things ends and the other begins.

      Thinking about “religion” in this way shifts discussions asking about “what are we going to do about those Muslims” to asking about what kinds of variables (e.g., political circumstances, class/economic issues, gender, demographic trends, etc.) in combination with *certain* beliefs or practices cause “problems.”

      I say “problems,” because beyond obviously cloaking of abuse and injustice in the shroud of religious injunction, somethings simply just are not really problematic. And “religion” itself is not problematic. Since Muslims seem to be topic of discussion let’s continue with that example. In the view I’ve laid out, there is not one global homogeneous Islamic community, but rather a plethora of groups who identify as Muslim; in other words, there are a variety of Islams. Some of these groups, admittedly, are more palatable to you and I (that is members of a modern liberal democratic society) than others. However, no one group or person can claim that they represent the true Islam. Indeed, there is no such thing as “Islam.” There is no such thing as “religion.” “Islam” and “religion” are terms or labels or categories used — by us and them — to “make certain kinds of histories” or exercise certain kinds of power.

      This shift in our understanding of what “religion” is turns the conversation towards the real issues that dehumanize us all.

      If you made it this far and are still with me, let me sum up the point of my argument with this: Systems of injustice (e.g., patriarchy, war and violence, etc.) exist with and without religion. And religion can be used to both justify and fight against such systems of injustice just the same.

      • Systems of injustice can and do exist without religions. Ideologies of any stripe that justify the ends over the means are dangerous.

        However, I know that the institutions of religion have done much harm over the years. Having the authority of a divine backing people causes people to do more immoral things. (This from an Ideas episode on Morality).

        I know that people can use these same tools for good. Moderate Christians and Muslims who use their Holy Books to do good are using the tools their cultures have at their disposal. The problem I see with it is that the more extremists also want to do good, but their idea of good is defined by their deity- not common sense.

        Thus they are doing ‘good’ when doing highly immoral things. I think this is more common in institutions where a deity or political leader is set up as absolute leader.

        I support moderates in their use of tools but am ambivolent about institutions of religion, nationalism, or any other that encourages people not to reason and empathize.

  3. I no longer wear a head covering. I once asked a woman who came in my store why she wore one. She smiled and said it was because she was a Christian and she believed the Bible. I saw her light up like she had just witnessed to someone and been a wonderful example.
    It made me sick.
    But the people who made me think weren’t the ones who confronted me with anger, they quietly asked me questions that I couldn’t give a satisfactory answer for. I have too much anger for that right now though.
    I saw a 3 or 4 year old girl all covered up in the grocery store yesterday while her brothers ran around in Western clothes. That makes me more sick.
    I think I may join a naturist club just to protest!

  4. Quester says:

    If you do join such a club, I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences, and what sorts of people you’d meet. There are Christian naturists, too, some who try to reclaim a Garden of Eden experience. I’d assume people join for a wide variety of reasons.

    How have you chosen to express your anger?

  5. Lorena says:

    I’m with you. My heart sinks when I see the Muslim women all covered up, in black, on a hot summer day, while their husbands cruise around in shorts.

    It is very hard to watch and do nothing. But, what can we do?

    I think Islam is growing because everyone is afraid to say anything. Maybe we should start saying something, like you have on your lasts few posts. Every time I’ve touched the issue, no-one wants to leave comments out of fear. But I shouldn’t let that stop me.

  6. prairienymph says:

    Quester- you sound like you know a bit about those clubs 🙂
    I have no idea how to channel my anger yet. I’m still excited about the freedom to be angry!

    I don’t know what to do. I need to find a former Muslim woman maybe and ask her. In my area I see more blue-eyed women wearing the hijab than ever before, and last week a full burka. (My area of town is primarily Asian- that is why its a big deal).
    I asked one of those women covered in black if she got hot. She said she was used to it. Then she asked why I wasn’t showing cleavage. Besides the fact I don’t have any- it amused me that I didn’t fit her stereotype.

    Just curious, where does your passion for this come from?

  7. PNL says:

    Quester: The sort of people we met at the naturist campground are generally the same people you would meet at any campground or public setting. The difference is an atmosphere of acceptance and respect. This is due in part to the fact that you’ll be kicked out if you don’t act appropriately 🙂 And more seriously, I think this is because of the ideals that naturists often strive to live out. It didn’t take long after facing the initial crazy irrational fears to realize that nudity is just as normal, or maybe moreso, than wearing clothes.

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