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The Gross National Debt

Monday, November 07, 2005

I have two new heroes as of this past weekend.

One is a Palestinian family and the other is a group of 23 teenaged girls. Come with me while I tell you a bit of their stories and why I think they are heroes.

Although this isn't a diary about politics, it is essentially political because of the circumstances and the lives of the people's story I will try to tell.

It's no surprise to anyone who even infrequently follows the news that violence is a way of life for Israelis and Palestinians. This violence doesn't discriminate by gender or by age. Last week, it was a 12-year old Palestinian boy caught in the crossfire. On Wednesday, Ahmed al-Khatib was doing what 12-year old boys of any nationality in any country do - he was playing. Sadly for him, he was playing with a plastic gun that Israeli troops mistook for a real weapon - they opened fire. Ahmed was rushed to the hospital where he received care and the good doctors and nurses attempted to save his young life. On Saturday, Ahmed died of his wounds.

Now for the heroic and remarkable part. To see Ahmed's parents you would be put in mind of any parent anywhere on this planet who had just lost a child they loved. They were and are grief stricken. It would make sense to me that they would blame the Israelis for the loss of their son - he was only a twelve-year old boy, for God's sake. And in their own hearts, in the privacy of their grief, they may feel that. But their actions defy that particular reality. Ahmed's parents made the decision to donate his organs so that, in his death, others might live.

The recipients of this precious gift of life, one only possible through the tragedy of death? Six Israelis. A seven-month old Israeli baby and a 58-year old Israeli woman received his liver. 14-year old and 4-year old Israeli children received his kidneys. A 5-year old Israeli child received his lungs. And a 12-year old Israeli child received his heart. All six of these lives, these human lives, are recovering and will have a chance at the life that Ahmed lost.

From the article, this was worth quoting:

Khatib said the decision to donate his son Ahmed's organs for transplant stemmed from a desire to answer violence with a concrete gesture of peace.

"I have taken this decision because I have a message for the world: that the Palestinian people want peace - for everyone," he said on Sunday.

"We have no problem whether it is an Israeli or a Palestinian (who receives his organs) because it will give them life," said the boy's mother, Ablah al-Khatib.

My second hero is not a person but a group - of 23 high-school aged girls who understand their own dignity and integrity, as well as their faith in their powwer to effect change. I originally wrote about this particular story at the Boycott Thieves blog, as one small example of the power of people with conviction.

These girls have decided to start a "girl-cott" against Abercrombie and Fitch, a higher-end retailer that relies specifically on the teen and young adult markets. What has them angry? A series of T-shirts that Abercrombie and Fitch call "Attitude Tees". Here are a few of the slogans that "Attitude Tees" feature:

  • Who needs brains when you have these? (Note: These words are stretched across the wearer's chest)
  • Blondes are adored, brunettes are ignored.
  • I make you look fat.

As a musician and a woman who works professionally in a very male-dominated world, I can tell you that I have a pretty thick skin. These T-shirts? Just... awful. In a world that insists that female beauty falls within such narrow confines and in which young women struggle through all the messages they receive in the media and in society as to their value, these shirts are disgusting.

The 23 girls felt the same way and undertook an organized effort to discourage peers and friends from shopping at Abercrombie and Fitch. Further, the Woman and Girls Foundation of Western Pennsylvania are assisting the girls, and last week, NBC's Today Show picked up the story. From there the media dominoes fell - CNN, MSNBC, ABC, all the major TV news outlets picked up and ran the story.

On Friday of last week, Ambercrombie and Fitch agreed to pull some of the "Attitude Tees" from their shelves. Score one for a small, principled group of teenage girls with a solid sense of themselves and what's demeaning and offensive.

So now, my thoughts - I'll try to keep them brief.

As I watched the story about the Palestinian family, I found myself becoming incredibly emotional. For one thing, the grief on that mother's face was so essentially human that I couldn't help but be moved. More importantly, though, this one small gesture by this one family that gave their dead son's organs so that others might live, the same 'others' who may in turn hate Palestinians gave me a vision of the person I would like to be. A person who can transcend my own shortcomings and fears and biases and stand on principle. Their principle was peace - for everyone. The platform was the death of their son and the gift of life they decided to grant to six other people so that their principles would be served, even in tragedy.

I only hope that when the time comes for me to stand up - to mean it and to lead by example, that I can set half of the example that this family did.

They are heroid.

The 23 teenaged girls are my heroes because they reinvigorated me to a few things that I always believed but that I've lost sight of during this horrible, uncaring Administration. One, your one small voice, standing on principle and on the side of right, matters. It matters all the time in everything you do. Perhaps The Today Show would have never heard the story - had the news cycle been different their story may have never come to light. But they would still touch each other in their efforts and touch those around them. Someone will notice - maybe one someone or maybe tens of thousands of someones. That simple willingness to stand up holds, for me, a profound sense of hope and a renewed spirit of perseverence.

The second thing the "girl-cott" did was renew my willingness to take on giant corporations that perpetrate injustice and to stick to it - always. No excuses. I don't shop at Wal-Mart. I won't shop at Wal-Mart. I tell people that I don't and why I won't. Maybe they will still go there, and maybe they won't. But I won't be quiet about it. I won't go to Exxon/Mobil for gas. Or gum. Or sodas. Or anything. If those girls can make a difference, so can I and Exxon isn't getting another dime of my money.

Heroes are all shapes and sizes, all nationalities and genders, all ages. These are just two of mine - I hope you found them as inspiring and I did.

posted by RenaRF at 6:36 AM 2 comments links to this post


Blogger DavidByron said...

Actually, as is true in all wars, the violence against Palestinians does indeed discriminate by gender.

According to this site,

Palestinian fatalities,... have been consistently and overwhelmingly (over 95 percent) male; even when combatants (almost all of whom have been male) are removed from consideration, just 8 percent of Palestinians killed by Israel have been female.

Even the fatalities on the Israeli side are mostly male. This is no surprise. In wars in general 90% of fatalities are male and the men are the majority of indirect fatalities from war (starvation, desease etc) as well as direct fatalities.

But you know... it's cool that those 23 girls had time to protest about a genuine gender issue like words on a T shirt.

Incidentally the ratio of male fatalities in Palestine also proves the killings are intentional. You couldn't get those odds by accidently shooting people.

4:07 PM  
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8:14 PM  

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