a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and a good haircut

This morning I discovered that conservatives are massively pissed off at Superman. Which, I confess, sort of surprised me. I haven’t paid any attention to Superman since I was a kid. Why would conservatives be angry at Superman?

Then I discovered that Superman is bisexual. Cool. But that discovery triggered an entire cascade of discoveries. I discovered that bisexual Superman isn’t actually Superman. Well, not the Clark Kent/Superman (CK/S) I knew as a kid. He’s actually Jon Kent/Superman (JK/S). Then I discovered that JK/S is the son of CK/S. That was news. Then I discovered that his momma was Lois Lane, which is sort of sweet, I guess. Then I discovered that CK/S was dead. Dead? Superman? He apparently died back in the 1990s. Not from Kryptonite, which you’d expect, but he got…punched to death? Well, okay. Then I discovered that CK/S had been resurrected. Not a surprise; you don’t just chuck away 70-some years of a franchise, do you. Then I discovered he was dead again. This time from Kryptonite. Then I discovered CK/S was…and yeah, I’m more than a little confused at this point…replaced? By a Superman from…an alternate timeline? I’m guessing the alternate Superman also replaced CK/S too. I’ve no clue whether it was CK/S1 or CK/S2 who fathered JK/S. I suppose Lois Lane knows. Not that it matters.

What matters is that Jon Kent/Superman is bisexual. And that has conservatives shocked and offended and angry. Naturally, on learning this, I decided to check the response from the ‘patriots’ at FreeRepublic.

  • Liberals ruin everything. — by NotSoFreeStater (If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice)
  • Where’s a head chopping Muslim when you need one? — by EEGator
  • and people wonder why I keep posting “fags are gross and sick” every time a faggot thread comes out. — by max americana (FIRED LEFTARD employees at our office every election since 2008 and enjoyed seeing them cry.)
  • Superman decorates and takes it up the butt? Has Metropolis been renamed Gommorah too? — by Scott from the Left Coast (Make Orwell Fiction Again)
  • I am so tired of Hollywood turning our childhood super heroes into fags. There is not a thing wrong with a straight man (or woman) being a superhero or just plain hero! I hate Hollywood these days. Bunch of butt lickers — by JoJo354 (JUST SAY NO to covid vaxx!)

Classic. We have a child born from the union of a woman from Earth and an alien from another planet (wait…are Kryptonites Kryptonians people from Krypton even human? Are they the same species as Earth humans?) who has apparently inherited the powers of their (do we know JK/S’s pronouns?) biological father (so those powers are genetic? They have their mother’s eyes and their father’s x-ray vision?) and somehow conservatives are distressed because this being doesn’t observe the religion-based cultural mores of 1950s United States.

I’d say this outrage at JK/S’s sexuality defies logic, but clearly logic doesn’t fit into it (I’m with Rita Mae Brown on this: If the world were a logical place, men would ride side saddle — and now I’m imagining the response of conservatives if JK/S is shown riding side saddle). I can’t decide if this performative anger is comical or just sad.

Speaking of sad and comical, when I was researching the history of Superman, I came across an image of post-resurrection CK/S. When he came back to life, the poor bastard had a mullet. A mullet. I’m cool with JK/S being bi…but that mullet on CK/S was an abomination. Props to JK/C for having a good haircut.

you can’t trust the soup

Today the Supreme Court of the United States begins its new term — and it’s going to be a goatfuck rodeo. We’re talking abortion rights, gun rights, religious rights. To make matters worse, these cases are all coming at a moment when the reputation of SCOTUS as an independent apolitical institution is at its lowest point in history.

And the justices on the Court — particularly the conservative majority — know it. They’ve spent the last couple of months making a preemptive attempt to repair the Court’s reputation. Last Thursday, Justice Samuel Alito gave a speech defending the Court’s refusal to act on the new Texas abortion law. He claimed that the tsunami of criticism faced by the Court was, in effect, an effort “to intimidate the court or damage it as an independent institution.”

A month ago, Justice Clarence Thomas gave a speech in which he stated the Court doesn’t base decisions on their personal feelings or religious beliefs. He warned that the people who criticize the Court risked “destroying our institutions because they don’t give us what we want when we want it.”

A week or so before Thomas’ speech, Justice Amy Coney Barrett gave a speech claiming any divisions on the Court were a result of differing judicial philosophies, not partisan motivations. She said, “[T]his court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks.”

Four Supreme Court Justices and five Partisan Hacks

When three of the most conservative judges on the most conservative Supreme Court in modern history all feel compelled to defend the Court against claims of being driven by partisan political ideology rather than by the law, you’re almost forced to quote William Fucking Shakespeare. The Court doth protest too much, methinks.

(Okay, sorry, short tangent…wait, two short tangents. First, I’ve come to despise that archaic term, methinks. A lot of people use it in a way that sounds ironic, but it usually comes across as cute. Cute and irony go together like corn flakes and okra. Second, for some reason, people who quote that line tend to put ‘methinks’ at the beginning. That’s not how Shakespeare wrote it. At least quote it accurately, people.)

In Hamlet, that line is delivered in response to a play that takes place within the play itself (look, it’s Shakespeare, everything is complicated in Shakespeare). Queen Gertrude is commenting on an actor’s performance; she’s basically saying the actor’s declarations of love and fidelity are too excessive to be believed.

That applies to the speeches made by these three judges. Their declarations of independence and political objectivity are too excessive to be believed. Alito, Thomas, and Coney Barrett can claim SCOTUS is an independent institution not comprised of partisan hacks who act on personal religious beliefs or political ideology — but nobody believes them. Because that’s exactly what they are, and that’s exactly why the GOP put them on the goddamned bench. Uh…in my opinion.

Tuscan soup — it looks good, doesn’t it.

Here’s an analogy: if a chef secretly poured an ounce of urine into six quarts of Tuscan soup and served it to you, you’d eat it. You wouldn’t be able to taste the urine, and it wouldn’t do you any harm to eat it. But if you SAW the chef pour an ounce of urine into the soup, you wouldn’t eat it. Wouldn’t matter if you couldn’t taste it, or that it wouldn’t harm you, you’d push the bowl away. Not only that, you wouldn’t trust that chef to cook for you again.

We all SAW Trump and the GOP Senate pee in the SCOTUS soup. Doesn’t matter if the conservatives on the Court tell us there’s nothing in the soup that can harm us, there’s no way we’re going to trust that soup.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Yes, we ‘eat’ soup. The reason we don’t ‘drink’ it is because many (maybe most, I don’t know) soups have solids in them that require chewing. Eating involves chewing and swallowing; drinking is swallowing without chewing. So stop fretting about it.

slay the big bad, return to the prom

There were many days during the Trump Dark Nightmare Interval when I felt like we were living out an episode–hell, an entire season–of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One of the many messages hard-wired into BtVS was that the Slayer was…wait. Okay, there may be some folks who aren’t familiar with this television show. I mean, BtVS ended in 2003, almost two decades ago, so I suppose I should recap the…no, never mind. You either know about BtVS or you don’t. If you don’t, then I advise you to correct that failure.

Anyway, one of the many things I liked about Buffy is the way the show ended. Instead of…okay, damn it, I guess I do need to explain a little bit about the show. Bear with me a moment. The premise of BtVS is that 1) there are vampires, 2) there is a vampire Slayer, and 3) the Slayer is always female. Got that? Lots of vampires, one female Slayer. Not just vampires, mind you; there are lots of other forces of…well, wait. Here’s the show’s intro:

Into every generation a slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.

So, again, lots of vampires, one Slayer* (yes, there’s an asterisk to appease BtVS fans who know better, but y’all don’t need to fret about it–just accept one Slayer-many vampires). If you do the math, you’ll see the shelf life of a Slayer is generally pretty brief. But when one gets killed, another is ‘chosen’. Don’t ask about the selection process; it doesn’t matter. Just accept it. A Slayer dies, all her power and abilities get transferred to some other poor girl. And yes, they say ‘girl’ because the new Slayer is always a teenager. Again, don’t ask why; it just is what it is. What matters is that this girl/young woman is then stuck with the thankless job of killing vampires. There’s a large pool of ‘potential’ Slayers out in the world–girls and young women all over the globe who are unaware and unsuspecting, but standing in an apparently arbitrary queue to become the next Slayer.

Them’s the rules. Buffy had no choice; some Slayer died, and she got drafted into a career she didn’t really want–and tried to avoid. Who could blame her? One day she’s picking out what to wear to prom, then next she’s supposed to fight demons? And eventually be killed by them? Who’d sign up for that? Wait, here, watch this. It’s a scene in which Buffy learns about a prophesy that she’s going to die.

“I’m sixteen years old,” she says. “I don’t want to die.” Doesn’t matter that another Slayer will be born; she’s sixteen and she’s going to be killed (and don’t forget, there’s a HUGE difference between ‘dying’ and ‘being killed’) just because she won a lottery she hadn’t even bought a ticket for. “They say how he’s gonna kill me? Do you think it’ll hurt?” She just wanted to go the fucking prom like a normal person.

Okay, now back to the point I wanted to make at the beginning. We’re closing in on what we hope is the season finale of the Trump story arc. He’s been sidelined, but he’s still a threat. So are all the lesser marauding TrumpDemons out there in the community, spreading Covid and insurrection. I find myself thinking about the way BtVS ended. Until Buffy, every other television/movie superhero story in the world ended in pretty much the same way: the superhero finds a way to stop the Big Bad (whatever it happens to be) by being a superhero–by using superpowers in an heroic way.

But not Buffy. She stops the Big Bad largely by changing the rules–by ending that “one girl in all the world, a chosen one” business. Buffy stops the Big Bad by giving up the very thing that makes her special. She finds a way to make ALL the potential Slayers into actual Slayers. Teen-aged girls all over the world can now do what Buffy does.

And they need to. Because the Big Bad–in whatever form it takes–can be stopped, but it never dies. It always keeps coming back. Which, obviously, is why Slayers have to keep showing up and kicking its ass. Which is why Buffy’s prom keeps being interrupted.

Slay the Big Bad, return to the prom.

My point–my goofy, sappy, obvious point–is that even though the current Hellmouth has collapsed in on itself, there’s still a LOT of ugly shit in the world and the threat is still active. So it’s up to all of us, to each of us, to step up and be as strong and determined as teen-aged girls. So to speak.

We don’t have to stake anybody (and really, we shouldn’t, even if we want to); but we DO have to put in a little effort. Vote, of course. But also call your members of Congress. Donate (if you can afford it) to candidates who share your values. Attend a demonstration. Buy and wear a t-shirt proclaiming your views. Seriously, wear a t-shirt. Being public about your opinions is not only empowering for you, but also encourages other folks to be public. It’s a way of recognizing and supporting other vampire slayers.

It’s okay to be scared–even by little things, like making a phone call or wearing a t-shirt in public. Ask yourself, “What would Buffy do?” Then put on your t-shirt or prom dress and don’t let your fear make you silent. Go to the prom, dance and have fun, slay a monster or two while the band is on break, and return to the prom. Keep dancing. Make your voice heard.

Make your voice heard.

i had a thought

So Texas legislators got clever and cute; they found a way to dodge the civil rights protections that allow pregnant folks control over their reproduction. They cobbled together a devious, shifty way to stop abortions–which, after all, is a safe, legal medical practice they disapprove of for their personal religious reasons.

See, the mechanism by which the courts protected civil rights involved is grounded in the 14th Amendment. That amendment is divided into two chunks. The first chunk defines who qualifies as a US citizen. We can skip that for now. It’s the second chunk we need to pay attention to. The second chunk says…well, hell, just read it:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

There it is. No State–like, say, Texas–can make or ENFORCE a law that deprives a citizen of their rights under the Constitution. That ‘enforcement’ business is where Texas got cute. The State of Texas doesn’t enforce any abortion ban. Instead, it relies on ordinary citizens to step up and sue the shit out of anybody who performs or aids or abets an abortion. If the Federal government says, “Yo, Texas, c’mon, you know abortions are legal, you can’t do just ban them,” Texas can say, “Hey, it’s not me, I’m not doing anything, I’m just standing here with my hands in my pockets.”

Cute and clever, right?

I had a thought. It’s just a thought; I haven’t done a lick of research about this. But if this shit stands…and given the Trumpist-dominated SCOTUS, it might…my thought is this: maybe we can turn the idea on its head.

Democratic-run states can pass similar laws. If anybody aids or abets a firearm sale that results in an injury or death, we can sue the shit out of everybody involved. The person who sold the gun, the people who hired the person who sold the gun, the individuals who assembled the gun, the company that manufactured the gun. They all aided and abetted the injury.

Now apply that to catching Covid, or attempting to vote, or polluting the air, or contributing to climate change, or or or. Hell, make it so private citizens can sue clothing manufacturers for failing to put workable pockets in women’s clothes–surely we can come up with an argument that requiring a woman to carry some sort of bag at all times is an infringement on their right to…something. Autonomy? Doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter, because the point–as with the Texas abortion law–isn’t necessarily to WIN the lawsuit. It’s to harass and intimidate; it’s to force the people we disagree with to cough up the coin (and the time) necessary to defend themselves in court.

Okay, I admit, that would be a shitty way to behave. It’s a shitty way to even think. But right now, I’m kinda okay with that.

We can be cute and clever too.

cane toads of politics–part 2

Back in June of 2014–that’s 20fucking14, people–I wrote about the cane toads of politics. I was talking about the way the Republican Party was deliberately encouraging fuckwits and conspiracy theorists to disrupt healthy political discourse as a tool for gaining and staying in power. My point was….wait. Damn it. Hold on.

Okay, cane toads–a quick and dirty primer: they’re a species of truly massive, voracious, ridiculously fecund toads that are also poisonous to predators. These gargantuan bastards will eat anything, including each other if no other food is handy. Greedy industrialist farmers who wanted a cheap, easy way to control insects introduced cane toads to sugar cane fields in places like Hawaii, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and now–because cane toads ARE such massive, voracious, ridiculously fecund, poisonous toads–the cane fields are overrun with cane toads.

Every Republican governor in the US.

Right. My point, as I was saying, was that introducing and promoting cane toads (or any invasive species) into an environment inevitably results in the destruction of other species that are actually helpful to that environment. When you introduce the cane toads of politics–the gun toads, the climate toads, the religious toads, the abortion toads, the conspiracy toads–into local and national politics, you create the conditions that inevitably degrade and destroy a healthy political environment.

Right now Texas is a cane toad state; it’s overrun with cane toads. Florida is just about there. Almost every state with a Republican governor and legislature is heading in the same direction. Right now, today, Texas is a state where almost anybody can openly carry a gun in public–no need for a license, no need for training, no need to obtain a permit, no need to undergo a background check. Sure, you’re supposed to legally obtain that gun, but nobody is going to check to see if you did.

Right now, today, Texas is a state that has deliberately and systematically made it more difficult for Black and Latino citizens—citizens of Texas–to cast a vote to determine who will govern them and make their laws. Right now, today, Texas is a state in which it is almost impossible for a person who is pregnant to obtain a legal abortion, even if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.

How is that possible? It’s possible because cane toads eat their own. Like I said back in 2014, Cane toads don’t stop being cane toads just because the beetles are gone. They’re still hungry and they’re still poisonous, and they don’t stop. This is why there are no longer any moderate Republicans. This is why there are no pro-choice Republicans, no Republicans who believe in climate change or reasonable firearm safety legislation, this is why we have anti-vax and anti-mask Republicans, this is exactly why there are Republicans who support insurrectionists. There aren’t any moderate pragmatic Republicans anymore because the cane toads ate them.

If we want to preserve the cane fields of representative democracy, we have to drive out the cane toads.

i am asshole, hear me roar

At the beginning of August I wrote a post about the response of the patriots at FreeRepublic to all those anti-vax fuckwits who, as they’re about to die a preventable death from Covid, suddenly see the benefits of being vaxxed. I titled the post Asshole Culture.

A few days later somebody asked me, “Greg, old Sock, this ‘Asshole Culture’ of which you speak, qu’est-ce que c’est?” Which is a good question. For those of us who spent too much time hanging out in grad school Sociology coffee shops, ‘culture’ is an overarching term to describe the social behaviors and norms of groups, grounded in the shared knowledge, beliefs, customs of the individual members of those groups. So Asshole Culture is basically the associated social behaviors of assholes.

Back in 2015 I began calling certain members of the Republican Party the Fuckwit Collective. I did that because they were, you know, a collection of fuckwits. Seemed pretty obvious. It was pretty obvious. But it was also naive.

Anti-mask/anti-vax assholes.

See, I thought the Fuckwit Collective was doing cruel stupid shit because they were just too stupid to understand that what they were doing was cruel. Silly rabbit, that was naive. It’s become clear to me now that a LOT of conservatives are doing cruel stupid shit NOT because they’re stupid, but because they’re cruel. Either the Fuckwit Collective has evolved into full blown Asshole Culture, or they were always assholes and I failed to give them credit for it.

Let me simplify it even more. This is the mantra of Asshole Culture:

I do/do not want to do this thing. I don’t care if it helps other people. You can’t make me do or not do this thing. I will go way the fuck out of my way to create a disturbance sufficient to make others miserable in order to do/not do/stop other people from doing this thing. I am Asshole, hear me roar.

Examples? You want examples? Dude. Obviously, the anti-vax assholes. It’s not just that they don’t want to be vaxxed, they don’t want other folks to be vaxxed. Why? Because it makes them feel bad, it makes them feel weak and vulnerable. So they act like assholes. They disrupt free vaccination sites to prevent other folks who WANT to be vaxxed from getting the vaccinations. They not only refuse to wear masks themselves, they don’t want others to be masked. They will disrupt school board meetings that want to keep kids safe by enforcing mask mandates. They will threaten school board members at their homes.

Open carry assholes.

Another example? Open carry assholes. The assholes who want to be openly armed in line at the Dunkin Donuts. Others (and I’ve done this my ownself) will mock them for being timid, afraid to stand in line at Dunkin Donuts without their guns, but that’s not true. They’re not afraid; they’re just assholes. Their intent isn’t self protection; their intent is to intimidate others, to make other people uncomfortable.

Another example? Aggressively Christian assholes. The assholes who insist on putting Christian religious symbols in public non-religious venues. Like the Christian cross recently placed at the entrance of the Mission Command Complex at Fort Dix. That wasn’t an assertion of religious belief; it was just some asshole trying to provoke a response which will allow them to claim to be persecuted. The intent wasn’t to promote Christianity; the intent was to piss off non-Christians.

Anti-trans assholes.

Still more examples? Defending the 1/6 insurrectionists as ‘tourists’. Calling for Biden to be impeached for withdrawing from Afghanistan. Performing fake audits on the 2020 election results. Claiming there’s a war on Christmas. Protesting at citizenship ceremonies. Insisting on ‘patriotic’ fireworks displays during a drought. Scaring people about trans folks using public toilets. None of these behaviors are sincere expressions of belief; they’re all examples of assholes being assholes.

Asshole Culture is nothing more than performative indignation intended to insult or outrage or intimidate others. It’s now the dominant culture in the modern Republican Party. How did that happen? Why did it happen?

My assumption is it happened because there’s almost zero consequences for being an asshole if you’re white.

burning bed

Yesterday an online acquaintance ‘explained’ to me that the tragedy that’s unfolding in Afghanistan wasn’t actually the fault of President Uncle Joe. It was basically Comrade Trump’s fault, he said, and Uncle Joe had been too focused on taking care of US citizens and so had overlooked what might happened in Afghanistan.

He wasn’t entirely wrong, but he was a LONG LONG way from being right. He’s right that it’s not Biden’s fault that the situation in Afghanistan is fucked up; but Uncle Joe is POTUS, which absolutely makes it his responsibility. Yes, it didn’t help that Trump’s policy in Afghanistan was inconsistent and incoherent. In fact, it’s ridiculous to even call it a ‘policy’; it was a series of reckless impulses, usually implemented through Twitter without consulting the military or his own State Department or…well, anybody. Trump made that unfortunate nation even less stable and more chaotic, but it would be wrong to blame the current calamity entirely on him. President Obama’s handling of Afghanistan was certainly more thoughtful and consistent–well, less inconsistent–but it was still largely ineffective. What’s happening there today isn’t Obama’s fault either.

The blame lies entirely with President George W. Bush. A limited, targeted strike against Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden would have been an appropriate response to the attack of 9/11/2011. But Bush, for personal and political reasons, decided to expand the mission to install a US-friendly president and create a US-style democracy in Afghanistan. And then he decided “Oh, what the hell, let’s do the same thing in Iraq.”

Essentially, Bush shit the bed. He shit the bed in Afghanistan and let the stink spread to Iraq. Obama inherited the bed and the stink, and while he tried to tidy things up, there was no way to get around the fact that there was a pile of shit in the bed and everything stank. When Trump inherited the bed, he sort of randomly smeared the shit around, making a bigger mess, then held his nose and declared he couldn’t smell any stink. He said, “Hey, it’s not my shit and not my bed” and announced the US would be leaving the room. He left the shit-smeared bed and stink for Uncle Joe, who is justifying leaving the room because Trump said that’s what we were going to do.

The Taliban, who’ve lived in the house for centuries, have decided to burn the bed. And everything in it.

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t Uncle Joe who shit the bed. Right now, the bed is his responsibility. He has a duty–a moral and ethical obligation–to rescue as much as he can before the Taliban completely burns the bed. Here’s another thing: no matter what he does, there’s nothing–nothing at all–Uncle Joe can do to mitigate the reality that the US left a pile of shit in the bed.

it’s going to be awful

It’s going to be awful for women and girls. It’s going to be awful for almost everybody, but the return of a Taliban ‘government’ in Afghanistan is going to be particularly and singularly awful for women and girls. And it’s going to become awful for them really quick. We’ll see a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan before the end of the year.

It was probably inevitable, given that every foreign entity that’s tried to invade/rule Afghanistan has failed. It’s not because the Taliban are a superior military force; it’s because of 1700 years of Pashtunwalie warrior culture and tradition. They know they don’t have to win a war. They just have to keep fighting and eventually their foreign enemies will leave. Five years, ten years, twenty years–doesn’t matter. Ultimately, they’ll get tired and leave.

The problem for women and girls in Afghanistan is that the Pashtunwali culture–the norms and values that makes the men such dedicated warriors–is also deeply misogynistic. We’re talking about a pre-Islamic tribal code of conduct–a way of life that persisted even as Islam became the accepted religion. Regional tribal groups violently resisted any attempt to organize them into a nation. It wasn’t until the 1880s, when Abd al-Raḥmān Khān became the Emir, that Afghanistan had an actual centralized government. It was Abd al-Raḥmān who made Islam the national religion. But it’s important to understand that Islam is layered over Pashtunwali culture–and 1700 years of tradition, that shit’s hard to break.

We’re going to see a return of gender apartheid in Afghanistan (not that it’s ever completely left). Women and girls over eight years old will have their mobility severely restricted; they won’t be allowed in public unless accompanied by a man who is either their husband, a blood relative, or an in-law. In public they’ll be required to wear some form of full-body covering (“the face of a woman is a source of corruption”), and they’ll be required to be quiet or soft-spoken (“no stranger should hear a woman’s voice”). At home, windows at street level will be painted over or screened to prevent women from being visible from the street; women may even be banned from standing on second story balconies. Medical care for women will be sketchy at best; male doctors are generally prevented from treating women patients and women doctors are actively discouraged from practicing medicine. And, of course, women and girls will be discouraged–or actively forbidden–from receiving education. It’s going to be awful for women and girls in so many ways.

I should note that some women freely choose to cover themselves. We see it in Western cultures as well. There are valid reasons for that choice. The problem is never how women choose to dress; the problem is having a patriarchal society deciding how women are allowed to dress.

Let me say it again, because this is something that can’t be glossed over. When the Taliban takes over, it’s going to be completely fucking awful for women and girls in Afghanistan. We have to face that reality, as ugly as it is. But we also have to consider a response. How do you change 1700 years of tradition and culture?

This isn’t about Islam. All religions have conservative branches, and all conservative branches tend to impose restrictions women and girls. The more conservative, the more restrictive. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism–it doesn’t matter. But if we (and by ‘we’ I mean specifically the US and generally all of Western society) want to improve the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan–and if we want that improvement to endure–I believe we have to work within the bounds of organized religion. Sadly, religious change is almost never quick.

First, we need to fund Islamic NGOs to help provide health care for women and girls who live under purdah. But if we want to see systemic improvement in the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan, we need to address issues within religion. I suggest we need to encourage moderate madrassas–to fund and encourage moderate imams to open Islamic schools in Afghanistan in order to teach a slightly less misogynistic form of Islam. As moderate forms of Islam take root, then more liberal, women-centric practices can gradually be introduced. I’m not a fan of incrementalism, but perhaps feminism-creep–a slow, steady expansion of the rights and freedoms of women and girls–is the most practical approach.

The Afghan Girls Robotic Team

I hate saying that. I fucking hate it. I hate it because it means writing off this generation of Afghan girls and women as lost. It means accepting that the lives of the next generation will likely be only somewhat less awful. But looking at the long, bloody history of that region, I can’t think of any other way to begin creating a better life for Afghan women.

I find myself thinking about the Afghan Girls Robotic Team. Seven teen-aged girls from Herat, they developed a solar-powered robot that could help farmers with seeding; in response to the pandemic, they built a prototype ventilator from parts of an old Toyota Corolla. And they did that during a war, under circumstances that were already restrictive to girls. Think what girls like this could do in a society that actively encouraged them. What’s going to happen to them when the Taliban take over?

It’s almost too awful to think about. Which is why we need to think about it.