Several years back, while waiting in line to buy tickets for a film in a Dallas theatre, I became agitated by the presence of about eight Nazi youth dressed in full Nazi regalia, swastikas blazing on arm patches, shiny black boots to the knee, tan pants and tan shirts ironed to a crisp. All were white, blonde-haired teenage boys, some with acned faces. None of them could have been older than twenty. Not one of them was smiling. They were intent on their mission. Marching silently back and forth, some of them were carrying posters that read, “Six million lies” and “Hollywood Jews Ripping You Off”.
It was the middle of a Saturday afternoon, the sun was shining, and they were clever. They had positioned themselves directly in front of the theatre, which happened to be attached to a street full of lazy passing cars. People standing in line didn’t seem to notice, didn’t even seem affected. Not one of the cars responded with a blaring honk. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.
I was with friends. Some of us walked over to a couple of police officers standing nearby.
“What’s happening here?” I asked.
“They are protesting Schindler’s List,” one of the officers replied. “But you’ll need to stay fifteen feet back.”
My face must have decried my disgust. I glared at the officer.
“You’re kidding me.”
“Sorry, that’s their right. You can say whatever you want, but you can’t get within fifteen feet of them.”
I yelled something. I think, perhaps, the Nazi boys laughed, or replied in some fashion to my horror. To this day, I could not tell you what I said or what they did. My mortification was so great. They were completely self-assured in their righteousness.
We walked shaking and tongue-tied back into the line. My friends and I were numb with anger. We began to break the barrier of odd, cold silence by talking about what was happening. It was unbelievable. It was ugly. It seemed unfair. Perhaps no one was responding and no protesters had turned up because it was best to just ignore these idiots; by ignoring them, they would realize their own idiocy and return home. It was the only rational justification we could come up with for the absence of reaction.
The discussion began to turn when one of us, George, asked a question. I have to paraphrase because I do not remember his exact words, but it was something akin to “Do you know who the largest number of people slaughtered has been?” Perhaps one of us responded, but he went on to finish, “People with birth defects. The handicapped. Think of all the people put in carnival freak shows, or forced to be court jesters, or left to die after birth because no one wanted them. We were gassed, too, you know by Hitler. And who has been our voice? Who knows our numbers? They can never be tallied up.”
We were struck quiet. Here was our friend, George, born without arms and born without one leg from the thigh down. A blossoming photographer, he was handsome, funny, smart, and young, as well, but full of wise passion. Had he been born in another time, wouldn’t he have been struck down or locked away? This might still have been his fate In many countries today. Yet here he was, alive, decrying the history of abuse of others who could have been allowed to achieve full potential except for the fact that they were physically different from those around them. And so they suffered. And so they were murdered.
The Nazis were chanting behind me. We shuffled our feet. We talked about Schindler’s List.
Some of us had seen this beautiful, terrifying film. Some of us had not. My face grew hot.
Suddenly, I felt myself growing angry to what George had said. My anger wasn’t directed toward him, but it was a deep, fierce repulsion in general to what he had described. I then replied, “What you say is true. Yet, I must disagree with you, George. The largest number of persons slaughtered since the dawn of time would have to be women. Women and girls.” No one said anything, and the words continued to tumble from my heart.
“Women have been burned and mutilated, tortured, raped, maimed, abused, neglected, defiled and castigated. We have been banished and assaulted for no other reason than we can be and no one speaks up. We have been held against our will and used as sexual slaves, gang raped and incested. Women have been born, only to be murdered because of their gender. Countries like China to this day are still murdering us the moment we arrive. And if we have always been half of society as we are today, think of the numbers of us who have been silenced.”
The discussion continued. I don’t remember what all we said after that. The movie was about to begin. We got our tickets. We went inside and watched a film. Life went on.
I woke up this morning, all these years later. I could not sleep. This conversation appeared out of nowhere and would not leave my head. It’s 5:30 am, and words are pouring out of me. I run to my computer.
I feel I must say this:
There is violence in this world. A violence that is evil and twisted and twisting itself deeper into our psyche. A violence that can no longer be tolerated. Perhaps the human race was once malevolent because as a whole it acted out of self-preservation, but times have changed. All of us have access of some sort or another of understanding and educating ourselves about each other. Why aren’t we learning each other’s histories and changing our behavior? We are living in a world chock full of technology, literacy, churches, synagogues, malls, schools, medical advances, television, film, music, the internet. Even the homeless, even the poor, can request help and somewhere, somehow, someone is willing to want to assist them.
And, yet, a young man in Wyoming is tied to a fence and bludgeoned to death because he is gay.
A black man is dragged to his death, decapitated, by white supremists.
People in Sierre Leone are having their hands chopped off by rebels.
Car bombs explode and children kill one another with guns.
Countries invade one another on the premise of human rights only to become feared by those they claimed they would assist.
What is going on?!
There are no words to describe how sickened I feel by these acts of evil.
There is not one ounce of goodness that can come from this except people speaking out to stop this violence. There are people attempting to get your attention, to get you involved. To get you up and out of your chair to say, “I’m sick of this. I want it to stop right now.”
Thank God for these people. May they never grow weary of their battle to get our attention.
To get us to DO SOMETHING.
I feel I must do something. I feel I must always speak out for myself, for my own fears. For my own womanhood and for my daughters. For everyone I love. Because this is my world, too.
Every moment, every second, women all over the world are bludgeoned to death.
Women all over the world are raped. Stalked and terrorized into submission. Women all over the world are dying from every evil thing you can think of. No woman is ever safe. We are born “less than”. We are the ones in society–regardless of our age or color or size or weight–who remain victimized. Every day I read in the paper: eighty year old woman raped and murdered; six month old baby girl sodomized; nine year old girl sex slaves in Thailand; sweatshop discovered to contain seventy girls working twelve hour days; genital mutilation victim escapes family and walks halfway across continent before finding help. Girls in Africa are gang-raped in schools. The reaction from officials? “Boys will be boys.” I am not kidding you. These are stories I have read. The list goes on and on. Try to find a paper that doesn’t list an act of violence, but harder still: find one that doesn’t list an act of violence against a woman.
When a woman speaks out on behalf of another woman, she is labeled a “feminist.” Or worse yet, a “femi-nazi”. We are laughed at, scoffed at, turned off and out because the sheer number of us being de-humanized is so great, it is accepted as a part of life. It does not seem to bother anyone that these things are happening every second of every moment of every day. The sheer number of people being victimized simply because they are women is so great that each one of us could probably attest to someone we know being affected by it.
Where are the marches on Washington? Where are the outraged fathers, husbands, sisters, activists, friends and women themselves in general? Why aren’t they banging the gong, screaming and demanding for this annihalation to stop? Why do musicians and film makers continue to create harrowing, violent art with women as the ultimate receiver? Why is this ok? What are we teaching our children?
Like the day I stood in horror watching the Nazis and wondering, “Where are the protesters?” I am left wondering every day, “Why am I so afraid? When will things change? Where are the protesters?”
What can be done? What can be done I ask you?
Here’s what can be done. Start it. You start it. Start it in your own heart, and you will start a movement. You can start it right now by making a commitment to end violence. Violence against anyone, not just women. Violence in even the smallest degree.
If you hear a co-worker crack a racist joke, call them on it. If you see a child being slapped, call the parent on it. If you see something on television that makes your stomach turn, call them on it. If you find yourself angry at your partner and want to scream at them, or hit them, call yourself on it.
Don’t buy violent music or support violent films.
Speak out against war.
Join groups that can help you in your desire to change violence, like Amnesty International.
Make a decision right now. Right now or I promise you this: it will be never.
Make this decision and tell your friends and family. Say to them that you want them to be aware of the amount of violence bombarding us daily. Life does imitate art. Action follows thought. We create what we believe.
What do you believe?
What kind of world do you want to create?
Create it now.
— — — — — — — —
For the Women
of the Speaking of Women’s Health Conference
By Sara Hickman/2001
Open your eyes and ears so that you can be alert
To the injustices of our sisters
Around the world:
Women suffering from lack of education,
From inhumane treatment and the
Disrespect of their societies.
Use your hands to build up our daughters
Give them the foundation
To become strong, healthy individuals
Who demand safe homes and streets
So they will no longer be victims
And unnecessary violence.
Walk on, though your feet may be weary
For you leave tracks behind you
That other women may find direction
From the lessons you have learned.
Be pleased with your unique bodies…
They represent your individuality!
Celebrate your spiritual, mental and physical journeys
That mold you
Into the person that only you can be.
Open your hearts;
Be proud of your empathy!
Nurture one another
And be jubilant in your tears
for those less fortunate,
For the moments that cause you to pause
And feel what life has to offer.
And, lastly, remember your voices!
Speak out, shout out, sing out
With the honor and integrity inherent in each of you…
Remember who you are with your song,
For it only takes one voice
To start a choir.