Reading the newspaper – Death to the Taliban!

Once upon a time

I grew up reading the Winnipeg Free Press my parents had delivered to our home in Gretna. I still like reading the comics and I am cheered by some pretty easy laughs. Yesterday I also had to smile at the report on Malcolm Gladwell’s visit; firstly, because of  the Free Press’s insistence his books were novels, then by his trademark Don King hair in the photograph accompanying the article, and finally by his expressed interest in Mennonites and how the centuries of persecution had made them attuned to the spirit of forgiveness, referring specially to the Doerksen case.  I’ve invited him to share his thoughts with readers of Rhubarb. I will follow up in other posts about my love for newspapers, but –

They are the enemy
They are the Taliban

The shooting of the young girl in Pakistan who insisted on going to school got my immediate and more serious attention.  “They are the enemy,” is a refrain in my Afghanistan Confessions manuscript, and who “they” are may change according to context. I do want to be very clear though about this – the Taliban are the enemy. It’s difficult to describe why, without falling into generalizations and sounding like a jingoistic American Presidential candidate.

But the examples of the Taliban’s campaign against education, especially girls’ education, bring clarity to the issue for me. Yes, illiteracy is “the enemy,” but the Taliban are trying to stop education, even of boys. The Taliban madrasas are teeming cesspools of boys happy to do anything for a meal, who will never learn their sisters are their equals while they strap bombs to their chests.

Why does it matter so much to me? Because I am old enough know how similar the Taliban idiocy is to the strain of conservative fundamental Mennonite theology  that tried to restrain my mother’s learning when her supportive father died when she was 14. I spit on the graves of my many bully Mennonite relatives, from “that” side,  spitting their sunflower seed shells on the linoleum. And now, apparently  contemporary western society believes this battle is over and won, because it’s not their daughters that are shot in the head or having acid thrown in their faces.

The Taliban are responsible for burning down Afghanistan schools, in one instance blowing up a school while in session killing 64 children. I know writing poems isn’t the same as gathering a battalion of war fighters like the Mackenzie Papineau fighting fascism  in Spain or joining the Canadian Forces to fight, but it’s what I do, like the two poems at the end of the post. But that’s not all, and it’s not enough.

Books not Bombs – How you can help

There is an Afghanistan Primer Power Point presentation on this site which I’ve used in fundraising presentations for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan ( ). Consider donations to this charity as one way you can help fight the battle against the enemy, against ignorance, with books and teachers, not bullets and bombs.  This article features  Patsy Aldana, a prominent Canadian  publisher talking about the need for  books, education, and a Canadian presence in Afghanistan.

 COMMENT: 12-Oct-12

Nice sentiment but parts are hard to swallow:

First, the Taliban are hardly the Afghans’ only enemy, and, if deaths are the measure, by a factor of 10-100 not even the worst one. Second, the comparison between the Afghan girls’ being killed for education by the Taliban and the mother’s being thwarted from education by  menno-conservatives is almost fatuous. Third, why the exotic, faraway Afghans and not the real Indians next door in North Wpg and Man.? Like Harper’s “fight” for human rights in the Congo, this seems a misplaced altruism.




I pick up the bloody pieces of school children.
The dust of the explosion covers their faces. Eager

girls inCalgarysend their money,
encourage more risk.

Afghan teachers learn how
to be alive. On my knees,

my stomach empty,
I know the drill is all I have.

I  bend to take a hand,  a pencil in its grasp,
the letter incomplete.



No chance here to talk to my daughter back home,
on her way to Grade Four in theFairWindsPublic School.

The girl in front of me shaking acid
from her face, me screaming Medic!

The enemy       (Yes, the ENEMY)
scoots away on his Honda –

a water pistol enough to imprint
today’s lesson,

his white kameez                        fluttering
in the wind.

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