On Oct. 9, 2012, the Pakistani Taliban shot Malala Yousufzai, a 15-year-old girl, point blank in the head as she sat in a school van.
Her crime: Writing a blog advocating for the education of females. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting, telling news sources Malala’s blog led to her being targeted.
In an interview on “The Daily Show” this week, Malala, who miraculously survived her wounds but suffers from the effects, said she did not think the Taliban would hurt a child, referring to herself. She was not afraid even after she read online she was considered a threat.
She told host Jon Stewart she first thought if a Talib came for her, she would throw her shoe at him. The audience laughed because they did not know throwing a shoe at a Muslim is the highest insult. The shoe is considered unclean, even showing the soles of your shoe is an insult.
Then Malala said she realized if she did that she would be no better than the Taliban. She said she would tell the Talib why it was important for girls to be educated, why she fought for education. “Then he could do what he wanted,” she said.
When the Taliban attacked, Malala wasn’t given the chance to explain herself. They shot her and her schoolmates. The child’s opinion did not matter.
At the time of the attack, the world was horrified, the Taliban vilified yet again. We rejoiced as Malala fought and survived.
Now she has started a fund to help educate girls, and she has written a book, “I Am Malala,” published Tuesday. I plan to read it.
Pakistan seems so far away; the Taliban remote, too. Of course we can (and perhaps should) buy Malala’s book and donate to her fund, but when we think about education, our thoughts must come home, too.
Education in America is not segregated according to gender, but it is segregated according to class, race and, perhaps most importantly, parentage. Children value education only as much as their parents do.
Those of us without children need to understand education is the foundation of our society. An educated populace makes decisions based on reason, not fear. We can’t let “The Daily Show” or “Colbert Report” or Rush Limbaugh form our opinions. They may make us aware of an issue, but it is up to us to get the facts. Then it is up to us to take action.
In our country, a blog will not get us shot. An email to an elected official elicits a thank you, not a reprisal.
We are so incredibly blessed, and because of that we are extraordinarily complacent, waiting for “somebody” to do “something” about whatever is bothering us.
Or maybe we’ve moved beyond that to the “whatever” stage. I know I’m guilty from time to time.
The days left to the baby boomers are not endless. We benefited from our education system in a time when education mattered greatly. Perhaps returning education to the forefront would be our greatest legacy.
Jan Hearne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.