Photo of a Moment of Calm Hope in Hopeless Pakistan:
That's 12 year-old Sadia Mukhteya up there. She is from a rural area of Pakistan where the Taliban has been fighting with the government. Her family displaced, she is learning English at a school in the slums of Islamabad. The lesson is on intransitive verbs, which are verbs that have no direct object. The subject of the sentence acts, but the only effect of the action is on the subject. Let us hope that Sadia learning to read English (or any language) is not intransitive.
While lessons like this are going on, the girl who no doubt has inspired Sadia and other girls in that class, Malala Yousufzai, was released from a hospital in England. She was shot in the head by a Taliban soldier because she is a vocal advocate for the education of Pakistani girls and the Taliban is comprised of a bunch of wretched, delusional assholes who hate women. So, in a very real way, despite her smile, Sadia is risking her life in standing up and demonstrating her reading ability. Malala will not be returning to Pakistan yet, as she needs further reconstructive surgery on her cranium.
In the same district where Malala was nearly murdered, a couple of days ago, five female teachers and two aid workers were shot dead in their van by gunmen on motorcycles. While it may be related to the recent attacks on foreign aid workers trying to vaccinate Pakistanis against polio, it may also be because they were trying to educate girls, and one cannot help but think about the symbolism of the slaughter of the women teachers. All seven were locals.
Some Pakistanis actually believe that polio vaccines for children are a way for Americans to sterilize Muslims, hence the attacks on those giving the potentially lifesaving injections. Believing the extremist position here would seem crazy, yes, except, you know, for all the American drone strikes that keep hitting Pakistan, killing, yes, the very people who would want Malala and Sadia and the teachers dead, but killing others, civilians, in a war that's not quite a war.
At the funerals for the teachers and the aid workers in the northwestern town of Swabi, hundreds of villagers turned out to bury the dead.
They wept and prayed. Intransitively.