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Hell For Women

Dogs, Ponies, and Two years to Tell the Difference

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, January 30, 2002.

So we finally come to essential questions long delayed in the asking and avoided like a live grenade in the answering. What is civilization and what is heaven? If you are a Muslim woman, it doesn’t really look good in earthly Islamic confines or in Paradise. When the recent Jerusalem suicide bomber was revealed a woman, possibly the first, people were curious what a woman could expect in Paradise. Men are promised the complete Playboy entourage of seventy-two virgins unable to compare his prowess to another man’s, which is a clue, surely. But what does a female get? An Australian Muslim asked this question on the website of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, an acknowledged world center of Islamic scholarship. The confusing answer was, according to British Slate magazine on Monday, that, quote, “obedient Muslim women, however ‘old and worn-out’, would be recreated in Paradise as virgins ‘amiable to their husbands.”

So Girls! Ready to strap on the K4 and blow yourself to hell for that, are we? Probably not. They probably just hate Israel as much as the men and have less to live for. Is that the afterlife of a benign religion, when Paradise sounds like Hell For Women?

Recent articles in the New York Times have concluded that Al-Qaeda is just a recent descendent of a long line of anti-Occident tribal views that hate capitalism, either because they failed in competition or for other reasons. The Times includes the Nazis and Communists in this. We might go ahead and include Islam in general, if not always in the specifics. However, by American standards it takes a great deal to make conservative Republicans look like standard bearers for gender equality and freedom, but Islam has done it.

It was depressing to see the State of the Union continue to decline into a maudlin dog and pony show. I have nothing against widows or widowers trying to cash in on the public memory of their spouse. Free country. But was Michael Spann a hero? With words like ‘truth’ and ‘honesty’ being bandied about, some ought to be exhibited. Myth is not an appropriate basis for adoration, because events are just superimposed over a template. And I question whether you are a hero when fighting for your own life.

Bush said something that excited me. He says all Americans should volunteer for two years. I’d specify which two.

It has long been obvious that much time and money is wasted in American education. It is highly questionable whether most people should go to college for a humanities degree just to stay in school and out of the job market. Most people aren’t mature enough to appreciate college. Further, America doesn’t have a common frame of reference anymore; something once provided our young people by army, music, or the McGuffey Reader. Two years mandatory between high school and college for just living: earning, and helping the needy under professional conditions isn’t a bad idea. Then, when they go to college, they might have a clue as to what they want to do in life and would work at it. Meanwhile, there would be a labor supply to attend to cleaning up the environment and caring for forests, to fight fires, for agriculture and infrastructure maintenance. There would be plenty of help at rest homes and day cares.

That sounds like a potentially valuable and unifying factor, something that everyone can look back upon and ‘hate’ together with someone they just met from another part of the country.

But of course, what Bush really wants is people to do it through a church, and believe what they are told to believe. Eerily, that brings me full circle today. This is Dark Cloud.