The 2018 International Women’s Day seemed to have had a sense of pride and feistiness I had not noticed in previous years. In the United States, especially, women have been in the news this past year for creating movements, entering politics, finding their voices to speak out for equality and breaking barriers in a number of professional fields. Mothers have fought against drunk drivers, in-school bullying and gun violence. Professional women have spoken up against sexual harassment in the work place as well as the political arena, teenagers have taken on the NRA and teachers have taken a stand for public education. Thanks to the Women’s March on January 21, 2017, the solidarity of women from around the world (every continent including Antartica, no less!) was the incredible spark that lit the fires of activism. And it just keeps going.
Last night I watched David Letterman’s new show on Netflix, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, as he interviewed Malala Yousafzai, a 20-year-old activist from the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. Malala was brought up to value education and often championed for the education of girls even as a pre-teen, a notion that brought her the unwanted attention of the Taliban. At the age of 15, young Taliban soldiers boarded her school bus and shot her in the head. The assassination attempt was meant to silence her but instead it gave her world recognition and a mission in life. Her remarkable recovery (in Britain) and subsequent determination to fight for the education of girls where education is denied led her to form the Malala Fund, earn her the first ever Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan, and, at age 17, the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala’s story is extraordinary and her impact is huge.
At one point in the interview, Letterman talks of others he has known that have risen from the ashes of trauma to become a beacon for good. In each case, the “seed of evil” was the initiator. Is that what it takes to move forward, to pursue goodness, to be reminded that evil has no place in our world? Good grief. And yet, when I reflect on this past year and all the resistance in which women have participated, that seed of evil seems to have played a role. The #Me, Too movement (sexual harassment), #Never Again (gun violence), Indivisible (Trump and his anti-woman, anti-science, anti-civil rights administration) and many more have been borne out of injustice. It is frustrating and disconcerting to imagine that humankind may never outgrow the good vs evil drama.
I am no Malala. The impact that I make in this fight for kindness and empathy toward my fellow beings will be infinitesimal compared to hers but fight, I must. Resist, I must. And it gives me pause to think of all that we can do, one small act at a time–evil be damned.