Public Forum


From the editor: This page is dedicated to the Public Forum, where we publish opinions on public and social issues that affect the Malibu community and our readers at large.

Women’s courage under fire

The 64,000-dinar question Publisher Arnold York asked in last week’s Malibu Times was why did the Iraqis vote in such large numbers? Who among us in Malibu would have left the safety of our homes to go out and dip our fingers in purple dye under the threat of amputation, beheadings and beatings? Where did the Iraqi people find such bravery?

The news media has it all wrong. Their reporting is riddled with Shiites and Sunni-and the three “Big Als”-al Qaeda, al-Sistani and al-Zarqawi. Every reporter missed the big story.

No report could have captured what the TV was bringing us. There, live, were men and women waiting in line, or marching down the street, with one goal: To vote (a custom that seems to have been forgotten in Malibu). What Malibuites were watching was nothing less than the birth of freedom and an amazing testimony to the dignity of man, and it was led by women.

The situation in Iraq is a challenging one. I have many friends who disagree with me on our involvement in Iraq. The basis of our argument has these roots. To those who condemn the president, I concede. If the war is about oil, if George W. Bush lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction, if it’s about Halliburton or just Admiral Perry American Expansionism, Sen. John Kerry is right.

But call me foolish (I have been called that before), I just don’t believe those things are true. I confess I have had my doubts. Every news narrative about corruption chips away at my self-belief. However, I cling to another belief, and this is where my friends and I part company. I maintain that all people are the same. I contend that Malibuites just want to earn a living, worship their God, send their kids to college and be safe in their homes.

My friends maintain that I don’t understand. It is their belief that theocracies are incapable of managing freedom. Tribal cultures are not ready for American-style democracy. Middle Eastern culture is diverse, and I am the Ugly American to believe otherwise.

The Ugly American, to me, is the one who believes that just because one has a different color skin, speaks a different language, worships in a different way, comes from an agrarian background, or has thousands of years of nomadic or tribal rule behind him, that he is incapable of embracing the ideals of Jefferson: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I confess that there is no way to know who is right but cannot deny the pictures Malibuites saw on TV. The reports were full of women as Arnold York’s editorial pointed out. What Arnold failed to see was that these women were mainly elderly. They reminded me of my grandmother, Sadie. They looked just like her-wise, tough, defiant, independent and strong. No thug 20-something terrorist was about to tell these grandmothers what to do. The Iraqi Sadies were the superwomen of the day.

Imagine the tête-à-tête going on in each house. Husbands were begging wives not to go out to vote for fear of their lives and vice versa. College-age kids were defying their parents by voting, or encouraging their parents not to vote for reasons of safety. You just hear the arguments? Throughout Iraq, families screaming at one another with each side threatening family members who endangered the family unit by voting. The arguments must have been violent.

Clearly, Middle Eastern homes shelter three generations. How did Iraqis decide what to do? My assumption is the decision was made the way controversial decisions were made in our house and the houses of all my Malibu friends. The Sadies decided.

You saw it on TV, old ladies at every voting place or leading family groups down the streets to the voting locations. I can hear Grandmother Sadie now: “That Yusuf. He’s not going to terrorize me. I knew him when he was a bed-wetter. I’m voting.” “But Grandma, Massoud has threatened to slit our throats.” “I taught Massoud to read. He pulls anything; he’ll have to answer to me.”

What neighborhood terrorist was going to take on grandmothers? You can bet the Middle Eastern gangsters are more afraid of the grandmothers than any al-Zarqawis. Like local thugs worldwide, no one was going to mess with a Curmudgeon grandmother. When your grandmother decides the family votes, who isn’t going to follow her?

Age has its privilege. Grandmothers have more authority than people give them credit for. Iraqi Election Day was a magnificent day for man, made possible by women. It was the American soldier who gave Saddam the boot. However, it was the Iraqi grandma who gave Osama bin Laden, as well as all Middle Eastern terrorists, the finger.

And that is all I have to say.

Tom Fakehany