Today while checking my Facebook feed I saw a picture of a beautiful young woman, child really, being released from a hospital after being shot in the head and neck by religious fanatics. Her "crime"? She was an activist for women's rights, particularly rights to education. She was fifteen, did I mention that?
Malala Yousafzai lived in Pakistan. She has played a prominent role in the women's rights movement in Pakistan for several years. She wrote a blog for the BBC when she was just eleven and twelve years old, using a pseudonym of course. She has won awards for working towards peace, and was featured in a New York Times documentary for her efforts.
In October 2012, her hard work towards women's rights, which mostly focused on a teen-aged girl's ability to attend school, got her shot in the head and neck by the Taliban. Apparently, this child was a threat to the stability and way of life of an entire group of strong, hardened men who had god on their side. They are leaders of religion and governments in several countries, and have supporters in even more. But the words and actions of one fifteen year old girl was a threat. They had to act. And they did.
We sometimes take for granted the freedoms we enjoy in the United States, and that so many enjoy in the rest of the world. Maybe I shouldn't apply our standards to everyone; it's relative, right?
Wrong. In this case, it couldn't be more wrong.
Malala was shot three months ago. But I saw it today and felt compelled to write. Not just about her, but about the violence. Malala, the rape and murder of a young woman in India, ongoing war, the murder of twenty-five people at Sandy Hook elementary school, the gang rape of an unconscious drugged up sixteen year old girl by high school football players (and the attempt by the community to cover it up, while the boys posted a video on You Tube bragging about it), and the thousands of nameless people assaulted, raped, and killed all over the world every year.
America, a world superpower and one of the richest countries in the world, has a higher rate of gun violence, murder, and prison population that we should. Our actions seem to say we don't have a problem with that. We spend more than the rest of the world combined on the military. A large portion of our population supports the right to possess automatic weapons and high capacity magazines. There is such a need for prisons that private corporations are getting in on building and running them, for a profit, of course.
I can't possibly be the first to think this, to be angry, or even to post on the Internet about it. But it needs to be said, again and again and again, until it stops: Enough with the violence already!
It has to stop. Not just in the United States, but all over the world. We can not live in peace in a country free from the threat of violence if it exists elsewhere.
It has to stop, even if it means giving up some of our guns.
It has to stop, even if it means no more cheap oil.
It has to stop, even if it means legalizing, or at least decriminalizing, some aspects of drug use (illegal drugs and imprisoning non-violent drug offenders has arguably shown to do nothing towards reducing drug use and addiction problems; prohibition of alcohol caused more problems that it was worth, why not consider the same is possible with drugs?).
It has to stop, even if it means drastically increasing money spent on education.
It has to stop, even if it means drastically increasing money spent on mental health care (the lack of understanding of mental illness and lack of mental health care in the United States is embarrassing).
It has to stop, even if it means we share some of our vast resources with the rest of the world and help (it isn't expensive, comparatively; or impossible, look at the work of the Gates Foundation, Partners in Health, or Kiva; all nonprofits working to keep people safe, healthy, employed, in hopes that it will improve lives and, as a result reduce violence).
I don't have solutions to the worldwide violence problem, merely suggestions. But it is time to act more meaningfully and on a grander scale than ever before. It starts in every home, school, and community, and ends in world peace.