Gentle reminders…

The past few weeks (months?) have been an exercise in plodding through and continuing onward. To what and where are not exactly clear, but that’s secondary.

As I continue to process ‘life’ for want of a better descriptive and work through various ‘issues’, I share two links which I have gone back to repeatedly in the past few days.

First, a gentle and beautiful reminder to us all from the lovely Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush:

Give those near and dear to you a hug and tell them that you love them and appreciate them and are proud of who they are. You never know when your chance to do so one last time has passed. Or, simply listen and know that you are not alone.

Second, a quick read which provides much fodder for all of us and an incredibly useful inventory of steps which have absolutely zero to do with flat abs. I don’t think any of these steps are particularly easy; but I do think we could all benefit from taking them to heart and attempting to make them a part of our daily lives and mindset. I know I could. If doing so leads to flatter abs, m’okay.

Fact: Child brides exist

A particularly gruesome headline can bring attention to issues which otherwise garner far too little coverage. This morning, one such headline has been on my mind:

Bride, 8, dies of injuries on wedding night in Yemen

There is some question regarding the veracity of the reporting in the wake of regional outrage. True or not, child brides as young as 8 years old exist in many parts of the world. Very few of those lives spark any interest at all and never appear in headlines until tragedy (of another sort) strikes.

Girls Not Brides estimates that each year 14 million girls are wed before they turn 18, the age which is internationally recognised as the point at which a girl transitions to womanhood. One in seven of those 14 million girls marry before reaching the age of 15.

It isn’t just that girls under 18 marry, which is troubling. It’s that the majority of those young girls are forced to do so, and more often than not are greeted with husbands who are much, much older. A rather chilling collection of photographs and a short film (below) by Stephanie Sinclair vividly illustrate the reality of child marriage for many young girls across cultures.

In addition to the horror of rape, many girls who are married off far, far too young face a host of risks to their health and well-being. Most likely already living in poverty, they are more likely to experience complications due to pregnancy and childbirth given their age, and they are at risk for sexually transmitted infections including HIV. Unable to emotionally and physically deal with married life, domestic abuse and violence are also likely making the transition from girl to woman a living nightmare.

For some young brides in Afghanistan and India, their situation is so unimaginably horrendous that self-immolation is preferable to returning to abusive, much older husbands.

Whether the headline of a single 8-year-old Yemeni girl is fact or fiction, the International Centre for Research on Women estimates that child marriage will be a reality for more than 142 million girls over the next decade globally if current trends persist. No continent is immune to this reality, and no single culture, religion, or ethnicity is ‘to blame’. It happens everywhere.

Whether that headline is true or not, hundreds of thousands of young girls have suffered emotionally and physically as a child bride on their wedding nights. Some wedding gift, eh?

Forgive us, Ike

I am no supporter of Bashar al-Assad, nor do I support the use of chemical weapons of any kind. In fact, I’d rather see a world free of conflict entirely. Pipe dream, yes, and one I’ll gladly continue to puff on in my little idyllic world.

But, I’m amazed (and more than a little outraged) that a mere 10 years after we watched Sec of State Colin Powell present now-understood-to-be false information to the UN on the existence of fictitious WMDs to justify a war in Iraq which should never have been, President Obama is seeking support for air strikes against Syria and Assad. Air strikes, which some argue would support a ‘group’ the US is more or less in a prolonged war against in that oh-so-crystal-clear War on Terror — aka al Qaeda. Strikes which some warn would launch the region which is already on tender hooks into utter chaos and unleash cross-border international instability.

What’s even more shocking is the incredibly quick show of support President Obama received from the likes of Speaker of the House John Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, two men who have made the sole purpose of their political lives to thwart any and all policies the President supports and have sought to cut any all spending related to, say, helping the American public. That is, any spending not directly related to defense.


Never mind that air strikes are aimed at a region of the world which is far more complicated than sound bites and 60-s news cycles can describe and do justice to. Nor that this is a region where the US is not exactly a ‘friend’, except if you speak to Israelis. Syria’s history is long and varied. And, its current civil war is multifaceted and steeped in history. Other than responding to the red line that was chemical weapons use by Assad’s government forces, what are we thinking?

President Dwight D Eisenhower, a Republican, must be screaming at us from his grave. And, he’d be quite right to do so. In his address just prior to leaving office in 1961, he warned:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Where can we find an Eisenhower for the 21st century to stand in opposition and as the voice of reason against our current path towards that increasing complex which has already had dire consequences for yet another generation of young men and women who serve their countries in senseless wars? Where can we find leaders who will allow us—the citizenry—to question their decisions, review their actions, and hold them accountable without fear of persecution, particularly when military interests far exceed the needs of the American public?

Things were not much better for Eisenhower early in his presidency. Writing to his brother in 1954, he had this to say about some of his Republican contemporaries:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group of course that believes you can do these things. Among them are a few other Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

You could replace ‘Texas oil millionaires’ with ‘Midwestern industrialists’ and you wonder if Eisenhower didn’t have a crystal ball. Sadly, however, their numbers are not so negligible today and any Eisenhower-type Republicans are largely missing from American politics.

I’m not saying that Eisenhower is without flaws. Far from it. But, today, we repeatedly hear there is no money for unemployment benefits or job training programmes, improving social services for those most in need and downtrodden, there has been precious little done to help boost or put forth a jobs bill, and the House of Representatives has voted 40 times to repeal a law which is already on the books and attempts to make health care more accessible to all.

Yet, let’s go to war again. Why not? Iraq only cost about US$820 billion (and counting). Sure! And, look at how much better things are for the Iraqi people now?!

Forgive us, Ike. We know not what we do.

Or, more aptly, we do know, and we simply don’t care. We have become slaves to the military-industrial complex and we should have heeded your warnings.