Prejudice is a monster that lives on the edges of our vision. Few dare look it in the face, yet most carry it in the periphery of their vision. The face of young Malala Yousafzai, shot down by the Taliban for promoting women’s education, has rallied people all over the world. Even in an ancient patriarchy like Pakistan the ugly face of sexism is too much to look at directly, and so people are rallying to Malala’s cause of equal education for all.
Tee shirts with “I am Malala” and pictures of her on the internet are showing up all over the world. Delegates from the United Nations are saying that they will take up her cause. All of that looks hopeful, but we must also remember that virtual activism is a contradiction in terms. The most likely fate of this energy, like all political energy of our day, is that it will dissipate into symbolic gestures.
Virtual petitions are well and good, but the world will not be changed by clicking a mouse. Democracy is hard work and it must ultimately be done face to face. After we have expressed virtual support for women in Pakistan, we must roll up our sleeves and give actual support to women and to education in our own nation. It is easier to see the face of prejudice from the other side of the world, but it takes a special courage to face the monster in our own place and time. As long as our national leadership is over 80% male in the United States, we are in no position to to teach others about equality. As long as we allow education to be cut every year in our own country we are trying to lead the world to enlightenment with a dying torch