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Wearing burqas, too

I was stunned by my glimpse of the beauty, of that part of the planet and it's people, that is known as Afghanistan during Dr. Michael Pendleton's slide presentation of his recent trip there for Northwest Medical Teams. We saw gorgeous pictures: of snow covered mountains flanked by the myriad shades of brown foothills and mud bricks of the villages, of beautiful, radiant children, of proud, amiable men, of no women. No women -- except from a large distance or the one image of the woman who reluctantly agreed to a side view photo completely covered in white wrappings during her visit to the clinic. This is the infamous "burqa", allowing virtually no part of the woman to be seen. Dr. Pendleton described women crouching down to make themselves smaller whenever men were around.

The borka has become for us a symbol of a way of life so crippled by its power over women that the warlord's arbitrary and selfish control over the people is absolute. I believe Dr. Pendleton said that in Afghanistan one child in five lives to the age of five; this immense loss due to preventable diseases and ignorance, and war.

The two main points that he made throughout the presentation were that the Afghani people must somehow come to see that they can survive without the warlords, and that empowering the women is key to healing and creating a sustainable culture. We sigh and wish they could come to understand what vital contribution women would make to the decisions about basic priorities, the allocation of precious resources. Life would be better for everyone. Renaissance power!

It occurs to me that there is a parallel here for the dynamics of power and the allocation of precious resources in America. We find our country dominated by the warlords of the military industry with excrutiatingly small chance of making political change over what the corporate elite arbitrarily and selfishly control. We are wearing borka's too! Who sighs for us, envisioning what our lives could be like if only we could understand that the billions and billions of dollars sucked into weapons and military control could be used to heal and create sustainable cultures on our planet?

Karen Harding

Mt. Hood

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