Mr. Kristof says “Her ‘Crime’ Was Loving Schools,” and he has a question: The Taliban in Pakistan clearly seem to understand the power of girls’ education. Does anyone else? Ms. Collins looks at “Democrats at the Deep End” and says it’s such a tough time to be a Democrat. But at least they have Joe Biden stepping up to the challenge! Here’s Mr. Kristof:
Twice the Taliban threw warning letters into the home of Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistan girl who is one of the world’s most persuasive advocates for girls’ education. They told her to stop her advocacy — or else.
She refused to back down, stepped up her campaign and even started a fund to help impoverished Pakistani girls get an education. So, on Tuesday, masked gunmen approached her school bus and asked for her by name. Then they shot her in the head and neck.
“Let this be a lesson,” a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said afterward. He added that if she survives, the Taliban would again try to kill her.
Surgeons have removed a bullet from Malala, and she remains unconscious in critical condition in a hospital in Peshawar. A close family friend, Fazal Moula Zahid, told me that doctors are hopeful that there has been no brain damage and that she will ultimately return to school.
“After recovery, she will continue to get an education,” Fazal said. “She will never, never drop out of school. She will go to the last.”
“Please thank all your people who are supporting us and who stand with us in this war,” he added. “You energize us.”
The day before Malala was shot, far away in Indonesia, another 14-year-old girl seeking an education suffered from a different kind of misogyny. Sex traffickers had reached out to this girl through Facebook, then detained her and raped her for a week. They released her after her disappearance made the local news.
When her private junior high school got wind of what happened, it told her she had “tarnished the school’s image,” according to an account from Indonesia’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The school publicly expelled her — in front of hundreds of classmates — for having been raped.
These events coincide with the first international Day of the Girl on Thursday, and they remind us that the global struggle for gender equality is the paramount moral struggle of this century, equivalent to the campaigns against slavery in the 19th century and against totalitarianism in the 20th century.
Here in the United States, it’s easy to dismiss such incidents as distant barbarities, but we have a blind spot for our own injustices — like sex trafficking. Across America, teenage girls are trafficked by pimps on Web sites like Backpage.com, and then far too often they are treated by police as criminals rather than victims. These girls aren’t just expelled from school; they’re arrested.
Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse of boys provoked outrage. But similar abuse is routine for trafficked girls across America, and local authorities often shrug with indifference in the same way some people at Penn State evidently did.
We also don’t appreciate the way incidents like the attack on Tuesday in Pakistan represent a broad argument about whether girls deserve human rights and equality of education. Malala was a leader of the camp that said “yes.” After earlier aspiring to be a doctor, more recently she said she wanted to be a politician — modeled on President Obama, one of her heroes — to advance the cause of girls’ education.
Pakistan is a country that has historically suffered from timid and ineffectual leadership, unwilling to stand up to militants. Instead, true leadership emerged from a courageous 14-year-old girl.
On the other side are the Taliban, who understand the stakes perfectly. They shot Malala because girls’ education threatens everything that they stand for. The greatest risk for violent extremists in Pakistan isn’t American drones. It’s educated girls.
“This is not just Malala’s war,” a 19-year-old female student in Peshawar told me. “It is a war between two ideologies, between the light of education and darkness.”
She said she was happy to be quoted by name. But after what happened to Malala, I don’t dare put her at risk.
For those wanting to honor Malala’s courage, there are excellent organizations building schools in Pakistan, such as Developments in Literacy (dil.org) and The Citizens Foundation (tcfusa.org). I’ve seen their schools and how they transform girls — and communities.
One of my greatest frustrations when I travel to Pakistan is that I routinely spot extremist madrassas, or schools, financed by medieval misogynists from Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. They provide meals, free tuition and sometimes scholarships to lure boys — because their donors understand perfectly that education shapes countries.
In contrast, American aid is mainly about supporting the Pakistani Army. We have tripled aid to Pakistani education to $170 million annually, and that’s terrific. But that’s less than one-tenth of our security aid to Pakistan.
In Malala’s most recent e-mail to a Times colleague, Adam Ellick, she wrote: “I want an access to the world of knowledge.” The Taliban clearly understands the transformative power of girls’ education.
Now here’s Ms. Collins:
It’s a tough time to be a Democrat.
When Democrats run into each other in elevators, they exchange glances and sigh. Or make little whimpering sounds.
They read post-Denver bloggers like Andrew Sullivan (“Obama has instantly plummeted into near-oblivion.”) and find themselves spending their evenings watching “House Hunters International.” The real estate market in Cuzco, they note, is sort of intriguing.
Democrats walk around repeating the comeback lines they would have given if they had been debating Mitt Romney in Colorado. (“Maybe you need a new accountant? Yeah, and a new calculator, and a new …”)
They tell each other that now it’s all up to Joe Biden.
They wander around the neighborhood, buttonholing perfect strangers, demanding the name of one — one! — tax loophole that Mitt Romney has actually said he’d close.
Democrats are going bipolar. Half the time they are grabbing at random bits of hopeful information. (An Esquire/Yahoo poll shows most Americans would rather go on a road trip with Obama!) Half the time they are in total despair. Nothing makes them happy. Show them that cute picture of the lioness befriending the orphan baby antelope that’s gone viral, and they will point out that the only reason the antelope is an orphan is because the lioness ate its mother.
Before falling asleep, they think about how smart Joe Biden is when it comes to foreign affairs.
Everything reminds them of the election. They hear Diane Sawyer talking about people who’ve gotten meningitis from steroid injections and they do not think about alternate therapy for back pain. They start yelling at the TV: “Yeah! Let’s not have overreaching federal regulation of those compounding companies! Let the states do it. The states are great at this stuff!”
Democrats spend all their waking hours thinking about the swing states. If Wisconsin starts looking wobbly, their day is ruined. They leap out of bed in the morning and race to the computer to see where the trend lines are going in Colorado.
Calm down and leave Colorado alone! Also, stop talking about getting into a bus and going door to door in Ohio. Research shows that undecided voters are most likely to be swayed by their friends and neighbors. East Coast Democrats, no one in Zanesville is going to believe you are their neighbor.
Democrats miss Seamus.
Yes, those were the days. When the very mention of “Mitt Romney” would instantly lead to a discussion of the dangers of transporting an Irish setter to Canada on the roof of a station wagon.
“Has Seamus peaked too early?” a worried Democrat asked me in Texas a while back. At the time, I thought that anybody who is a Democrat in Texas had so many things to worry about, it was a miracle he could even remember the dog’s name. But now it’s clear that he was totally right. Seamus was so June.
All Democrats have now is Big Bird. Plus worrying about whether they’re talking too much about Big Bird.
Plus Joe Biden, who has a very nice smile.
You have to calm down, Democrats. Romney hasn’t turned into some new supercandidate. You were just underestimating him during September. He’s the same old Mitt. This week in Des Moines, he told an editorial board that he doesn’t have any plans for pushing anti-abortion bills if he’s elected. (“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”) Meanwhile, back at headquarters, his spokeswoman was assuring National Review that he “would, of course, support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”
Maybe this will come up in the vice-presidential debate. Do you remember how well Joe Biden did against Sarah Palin?
Things haven’t really gone off the deep end for the Obama campaign. They’ve gone back to normal. You knew that the Obama-is-going-to-win-by-10-points euphoria wasn’t going to last. When did anybody ever win a presidential race by 10 points? Don’t tell me about Ronald Reagan. When Ronald Reagan was president, gas was 90 cents a gallon and I was writing on a Kaypro.
Maybe Democrats should try to be more like the Republicans, and reduce stress by blaming all bad news on incorrect information, cooked up by cabals of political partisans.
Although you can’t be overly sensitive about it. Jack Welch, who has been famous for his tender spirit ever since he ran General Electric, was outraged when he ran into flak for claiming that the “Chicago guys” had cooked the unemployment statistics.
“Imagine a country,” Welch wrote indignantly in The Wall Street Journal, “where challenging the ruling authorities — questioning, say, a piece of data released by central headquarters — would result in mobs of administration sympathizers claiming you should feel ‘embarrassed’ and labeling you a fool, or worse.”
Perhaps we should all work on feeling sorry for Jack Welch.
Yeah. Let’s feel sorry for the guy who was in charge of GE when it shed almost 100,000 jobs.