Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Voice Not Silenced


I can't stop thinking about Malala. A little girl who wanted something as simple as an education. And yet, there is nothing simple about education. This I know.

 I have education in my blood. My mother was a teacher and school board member. I was a teacher. I work for an education organization still. It's the family business, so to speak. Education has sustained me my entire life -- and yet, I never had to fight for it, worry about dying for it. It was always a given. Not so for Malala and girls like her in many corners of the world.

This brave young woman -- still a child, already an activist -- has so frightened a bunch of grown men with her outspoken fervor for learning that she's now fighting for her life. Because with education comes so much more. Power, potential, freedom . . . and I guess that scares some people.

Malala, even before the attack that left her fighting for her life in a British hospital, was a symbol for the rights of girls to go to school. The daughter of educators herself (her father runs the school she attends), education is in her blood. The blood that the Taliban spilled on her school van. The blood that the Taliban has vowed to continue to spill until she is dead and her voice silenced.

But a voice like Malala's can't be silenced by cowards -- history has shown us that. Instead, it is magnified, amplified, by those who think like she does -- that everyone deserves an education. By those who are outraged that grown men would choose to hunt a child because she is strong, and brave, and thirsty to learn. By those, like me, who never had to worry about how I was getting to school, or if I would make it home from school, or if my school would be shuttered by hate-mongers and extremists. By those who have been touched by her story, her courage, her desire to learn.

Malala, your voice will not be silenced, because I won't let it be. I'm adding my voice to yours -- and to the other girls like you who are willing to put their lives in danger just to go to school.  We can't stop reading, and writing, and screaming, and learning.  We have to -- for Malala, until she's well enough to join us again.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bourbon and Cigarettes

WH and I were at happy hour this evening when we happened upon one of the most annoying characters in the human species.  A character that I like to call the "Bourbon and Cigarettes* Girl."  This woman (not a girl, I suppose) is ever-present wherever people gather.  She is never alone, and she is always loud.  Always. She has that voice that sounds like she's been drinking a bottle of bourbon and smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.  Slightly gravelly, full of vibrato (and for that matter, bravado), deep, and throaty. 

You know this woman.  She is the one at the Chinese restaurant, surrounded by friends (all of whom seem to have been striken mute or speak in inaudible tones barely above a whisper), regaling them (and all the tables around her) with full-volume stories of how, "oh.my.god. I was so drunk the other night and I was totally hooking up with this guy, but he didn't want to stay over, because I live in Arlington and he lives in Capitol Hill, but I convinced him anyway..."  She is the one who is sitting next to you on the Metro, talking on her cell phone ensuring that you're aware of her asshole boss, where she works, and her annual salary.  She is the one the next bar stool over on a blind date, filling her date's head with stories of how awesome and supportive her parents are for paying her rent and letting her live in D.C. even though she hasn't had a job for six months.  She uses words like, "A-MA-ZING," "OMG," and "TOTALLY!"  She LOOOOOOOVES the sound of her own voice, and is pretty sure you do too.  In fact, she's even currently appearing in a leading role in a Marshall's commercial, evidenced here:


Some famous Bourbon and Cigarettes Girls include Rachael Ray, Lara Spencer, and Ryan Seacrest (yeah, yeah, I know).  Or, as in the case of the young woman sitting near us tonight, she is the one who is so enamored of her cats (Toby and Muffin...I swear, I'm not making this up), that she whips out her phone (it was 100% a Sidekick and it was most definitely pink) to share photos of them with the bartender.  It's impossible to ignore her, and because of this, you learn details you don't care to know about anyone.  For instance, Toby is a striped cat, but has a white belly, and Muffin is a black and white tuxedo.  I'm pretty sure I could identify Toby and Muffin in an lineup, even though I wasn't privvy to the Sidekick photos.

The Bourbon and Cigarettes Girl is the most obnoxious of breeds.  She must draw attention to herself, even in a quiet and crowded library, simply because her boots are so freakin' cute.  She thinks she's adorable, witty, and intelligent.  Would that we all had this unfailing confidence in ourselves.   And no matter where you go, she and her mute friends, are sitting next to you.

So the next time you're out in public and you end up sitting next to this woman, please, come sit by me . . . I'll be on the other side of the Bourbon and Cigarettes Girl rolling my eyes.

*This is not meant as a criticism of bourbon or cigarettes . . . but merely as an evocative descriptor.