Meditations on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
One young woman, eight years old and well before the age most people start thinking for themselves, said “NO.” “The answer is NO!”
“No, I will not permit you to forcibly hold me down and cut my genitals so you can keep your traditions. No, I will not permit you to mutilate me in the name of ‘we’ve always done it this way’ and societal acceptance.”
Because of her determination and courage, 50,000 other young women, who would have also been held down, who would have experienced the wide-awake, unsedated nightmare of an often dirty knife sliced into the most tender part of their sexual and reproductive anatomies, who might have bled to death, who would have been permanently maimed, who would be far more likely to perish in childbirth than uncut women, also said “NO.” ”
“No, you may NOT do that to my body. I don’t care how high a price I have to pay, the answer is “NO.”
Because of her courage and strength, the all-male tribal elders, who normally operate with unquestioned authority, finally let her speak.
One young girl. It started with just this one young Kenyan girl, Nice Leng’ete, who saw an injustice and said, “No.”
Ms. Leng’ete’s sister, who had initially resisted the ritual, had eventually given in. By the time she was 12, she’d been married off to an older abusive man, for whom she bore three children. But Ms. Leng’ete’s refusal to participate rendered her essentially unmarriageable. Thus, her bad fortune became her good fortune: she was able to stay in school.
She’s now 27 and goes from village to village, helping people find new rituals to celebrate the coming of age of young women, new rituals that don’t involve cutting but do honor the traditions.
She blows me away.
This woman comes from one of the countries the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, has labeled with an unforgivable vulgarity. Mr. Trump, supported by Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, would prefer that none of the citizens of this country emigrate to the US.
I say we need women and men just like her.
We need role models who live unwaveringly from the basic Christian principle, part of our historic baptismal vows, that we will resist injustice and oppression in whatever forms we find them.
More, we need to become those very role models who stand up and say, “No, I will not participate in this unjust activity. I will pay the cost of resistance. Who is with me?”
Who will be the next Rosa Parks who says, “No, I will not move to the back of the bus”?
Who will stand and say, “No. There is no place in US public life to label people who are different from us with vulgar and unacceptable language”?
Who will stand and say, “No. We will no longer support religious leaders who choose to compromise the essence of the faith on the altar of political expediency”?
Who will stand and say, “No. I will no longer tolerate rampant sexual harassment in any area of life”?
Who will stand and say, “No. I will not support policies that make the lives of the poor even more difficult even though they enrich my own pocket”?
Resistance, to coin a phrase from the Borg (for all you Star Trek, The Next Generation fans) is NOT futile. Resistance, however, does cost–it is not a safe stance. Going along to get along always provides more security, more status, more accolades. It also more fully corrupts the soul.
Let us be the people of the resistance. Let us shout a resounding “NO” and change the world for the better.