Friday, October 23, 2009

September 28, 2009

Anybody at all know what's significant about this date?

I tend to be pretty ambivalent when it comes to the spread of democracy in the world. I mean, I think it's great to have a system of government that acknowledges the power and importance of each person (despite the fact that people, as large groups, often tend toward stupidity and fear) and allows each of us to select our leaders and have our voice be heard in how our country operates. But lately I've been feeling pretty disgruntled with the job that democracy has done its citizens in this country: I often get discouraged that this idea of our government taking care of its members means our government taking care of a certain subset of peoples. Others are ignored, enslaved or imprisoned, and exterminated. But there are other parts of the world that I think would benefit from a government a bit more focused on the people and their needs, and not the narrow margin of what a military minority needs, or what a dictatorship wants, or how small pods of people will take over a country and use it as a personal bank account.

Enter September 28, 2009. On this date, three weeks from this past Monday, 50,000 people gathered to protest a ban that had been put on a rally for democracy. Soldiers at the soccer stadium where the protest was, opened fire on protesters, killing 157 people (so far) and wounding 1200 more. But this isn't the thing I want to write about. I want to write about the fact that women in Guinea have been raped, on city streets in broad daylight by soldiers as part of this military action to crush this protest.

For the first time I heard about this story Tuesday on NPR, about women in the streets of Conakry, who were stripped, beaten, raped and sodomized by male soldiers and their weapons. You know what I mean. Soldiers were violating women in as many ways as they could think of. There was a story of a woman who was dragged to a villa, stripped and drugged and gang raped by soldiers, some of whom were masked--the whole thing is very Eyes Wide Shut, only desperately more fucked up. She managed to escape her fate because one of the male soldiers who came in on the next shift to have his way with her recognized her, and helped to get her out. (Are you fucking kidding me? What would he have done to her if they hadn't known each other?)

The reporter quoted the words of soldiers: "A woman's place is in the home. If you want political rallies, we'll show you political rallies."

How is it I just heard about this story yesterday? It's true, I don't have cable, but I also don't live under a rock; I work really hard to stay informed. Some dolt who lies about floating his six-year-old away in a balloon makes national headlines, but this manages to skate by me for three weeks.

One in four women in this country is the victim of rape. That's in the quiet of homes and the shadow of empty garages and poorly lit jogging paths, all under some guise or other, that of family, or of marriage, or of breaking and entering, or that never-watching-but-seeing-all eye of night. But on this day, women who'd gone to a soccer stadium to express their desire for a government with the people in mind were taught not only that their country doesn't care for them, it doesn't care about them. They were taught that women should have no voice in expressing their desires for fairness and justice. They were raped in broad daylight, as the odd adage goes, in public.

Imagine that for a moment. Imagine walking down the street, down Addison, in front of Wrigley Field, or down State Street in front of the Harold Washington Library, and imagine a man in a green uniform stops you and holds a gun to your head while his buddy pulls out a knife longer than your hand. He cuts the waistband of your new jeans, the ones that make your ass look so good, without taking care to avoid cutting your skin, and he shreds the legs so that soon you are standing only in your panties. He rips open your oxford shirt and from far away you can hear the buttons skitter on the dirty sidewalk. He slices off your bra, leaving your breasts exposed to the autumn air, and it's cold and you wish your nipples weren't hard, but it's cold and you're scared and he laughs and licks his lips and whispers something with fetid breath in your face about how intelligent sluts like you study too hard and need to lighten up more. He's going to show you what the government can really do for its citizens. With one swipe of a lion-like paw your underwear is in his hand. He doesn't even have the decency to pull you into an alley or doorway, he just rapes you right there on the sidewalk: there's a cigarette butt smoldering less than a foot from your face, you can smell the smoke, and you can hear the el is still coming and going, and all you can think of is the blinding pain you're in and it's wet between your legs, is that blood, and all you wanted to do that day was go to work. Or to school.

Streets of Chicago may not have much in common with the streets of Conakry. I don't know what kind of a country Guinea is. I don't know if anything like this would ever happen in this country: I tend to believe we're not that far off. A few months ago I found out about a documentary called Dream Worlds 3--incredibly disturbing--about sex and power in the music industry that displays how horribly women are treated and objectified in this country, and not just by movie stars, but by anonymous assholes who think its cool to spray women with Colt 45. It's not enough for me to shrug my shoulders at the Evil stalking the surface of the earth and sigh about the fallen state of the world. I can't fly to Guinea and prosecute anyone, I can't even vote on a sanction or condemnation or whatever bureaucratic slap on the wrist the UN has come down with . But it can't be okay that women are treated like this in any part of the world. There must be something to do.

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