The Taliban, U.S. Elections and Freedom of Speech

by Saturday, October 13, 2012
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Tragedy in Pakistan

I was horrified recently to learn of a terrible incident that occurred in Pakistan just this week.

A young girl named Malala Yousafzai, was riding the bus on her way home from school.  Malala was no orderinary teen in Pakistan.  Since the age of 11, she had been writing a blog for the BBC about life under the Taliban in the Swat Valley area of Pakistan.  She has been interviewed on television and was very interested in education for females. 

Unfortunately, none of these activities are approved by the Taliban.  In fact, it goes against everything the Taliban believes in.

So on this day, they stopped the bus and climbed aboard.  They asked which child was Malala, and upon locating her, they shot her in the head and neck.  Malala underwent surgery to remove a bullet near her spinal cord and as of the writing of this post, she has not regained consciousness.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility, and announced that if they get the chance, they will try to finish the job.  I don't have the proper words to express what I think of this, but you can read the whole story here.

Presidential Elections

This shocking turn of events made me stop and think… it made me incredibly grateful that I live in a country where I don't need to worry about such things.  With the presidential election occurring in the United States in just a few weeks, it would be easy to dwell on what a mess things are here.  Just turn on the TV, read articles online or peruse the newsfeed on Facebook or Twitter… full  of denouncements of how awful things are in the United States (and how badly the candidates will muck it up once in office).

I'm not going to sit here and say that we don't have a lot of issues here, and plenty of problems that need to be addressed or solved.  I'm also not going to say that the two candidates for the United States don't have some fundamental differences in how they would address our nation's problems.

But let's be honest… when Barack Obama took office from George W. Bush in 2009, nothing completely dramatic occurred overnight that said, "Hey, somebody from another party is in office now."  And if Mitt Romney wins, I expect the same thing to NOT happen in January 2013.  Frankly, the Democrats and Republicans have more in common than not (when compared with political parties in other countries).  My mom likes to say that one of the great things about the U.S. is that we always have peaceful transitions between presidents… we've yet to have a revolution when a new president takes over! 

Free to Be, You and Me

Which brings me back to the main point of this blog… another great thing about our country is our freedom of speech.  For some reason, this horrible shooting in Pakistan makes me even more thankful than ever to our Founding Fathers.  Yes, if I post something on social media that ruffles feathers, I'm going to get instant feedback from the social sphere.  But do I worry that I'm going to be physically attacked because of anything I say?  Absolutely not.  Because of the First Amendment to our Constitution, I have the ability to work in social media and say whatever I need to on behalf of my clients… and even to publish this post!  And I'm certainly not worried that my government is going to come after me for talking about life here in the burbs. 

Poor Malala Yousafzai.  That is EXACTLY what happened to her.  She tried to speak up for the basic rights of young girls living under the thumb of the Taliban in Pakistan.  She paid the price for her words. 

So to get back to the Presidential election in the U.S…. no matter who wins for President, I'm not worried that I'll be a victim of my words spoken on the Internet.  I'm sure (if she recovers) that Malala and all of her peers would LOVE to come live here, and they wouldn't dream of using the winner of our presidential election as a qualifier before making that choice.  (Can you imagine: "Sorry, Romney is president, so I can't live there.")

I would choose living here in the U.S. any day, regardless of whether our next President is Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney.  And I'm so grateful to have the rights to speak freely.  Let's all say some prayers for Malala Yousafzai and hope for a speedy recovery.  Let's also pray that the Taliban hasn't put out a bright shining light.

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