I often find myself torn about what is "appropriate" to blog...how honest to be when it comes to culture and exposing the sometimes seedier under-currents of life. Every culture has its sins. It doesn't take long for an outsider to feel the dark depths that by nature soil our cultures...regardless of race, religion, socio-economic/developmental status, geographic area, etc etc. So if I make mention of disturbing trends and horrifying realities that rage through this desert place, please do not take this to mean that I somehow think that my own culture is better than this. I am by nature a fighter...I see injustice and it makes my heart race and my blood boil and my hands clench into fists. It's part of me. I can't stand idly by and refuse a voice to the voiceless. So there might be moments when I draw attention to this or to that...when I use my own voice to tell stories of the voiceless. I hope these things make your heart race as well and your fists clench in anger because this is not ok. This is not just "a difference of culture" and if we sit back and allow cultural relativism to rule our sense of justice then we are no better than the perpetrators, whether they be American, Arab, Asian, or any other culture.
So what, you might ask, led me to even write this little blurb? Well, the list is long so today's story will be short and to the point. I was riding in a cab last week with another American friend. The cab driver was very friendly, and delighted to have Americans in his taxi. He started telling us about himself- he is Egyptian and is married to a Philippina woman. He starts talking about his wife and how beautiful she is. Within a couple of minutes, he was handing us pictures of her...her passport and visa documentation and a few old photos. We said she was very beautiful and looked pretty young. The cab driver said that she was 18. We asked him how long they had been married and he said 4 years. The cab driver was 42. So, do the math. And one more detail? He had her brought over from the Philippines to be his wife (read: he bought her). So that story has been floating around in my head for about a week now. It's not the first time I've heard that story, and it certainly won't be the last. But today I stumbled across a story in the Times that I think you should read...it's about an incredibly brave 10-year old divorcee who has become quite famous for her bold decisions. Note that the girl in this story lives in Yemen...another of the Arabian gulf countries. Here's the link!