To help spread her story, I’m doing a drawing for a free copy of “I Am Malala”. (To get into the drawing, subscribe via email to Diamond-Cut Life, on your right. Takes about 30 seconds. You’ll promptly receive a verification email; click inside it to complete. Easy to unsubscribe with a click any time. If you already subscribe via email and want to be in the drawing, just tell me so in a comment.)
“I Am Malala” is a valuable, important book to read for two reasons (at least):
Inspiration. In telling us about her life, this grounded young writer/doer/thinker is giving us a primer on how to be a hero/heroine in our own lives.
Understanding. “I Am Malala” helps us in the West understand the Mideast and Islam, which often feels complex and impenetrable to us. Islam has about 1.3 billion adherents, yet most of us have only the vaguest understanding of this religion. Personal, real-life accounts like Malala’s penetrate the mystery and create doors of understanding.
Malala is a devout Muslim who, interestingly, doesn’t fault her religion at all that she was attacked. She points out that nowhere in the Quoran does it say that girls and women should not be educated. (I would add that the Taliban’s attempted assassination of Malala no more represents Islam than the murders of some abortion doctors in the U.S. represents Christianity.)
Malala does fault the Taliban, and also the Pakistani government that fails to control the Taliban or bring the criminals among it to justice. She reports that her shooter had not been arrested as the book went to press. She also says she is not angry at him. This attitude helps us understand why Malala was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person to ever be considered for it.
Malala believes that Pakistan’s disrespect of its manual workers helped drive the rise of the Taliban: “We love our scarves and blankets but don’t respect our weavers. . . . this is the reason so many joined the Taliban – to finally achieve status and power.”
Why is Malala special? She knows she is part of something much greater than herself. She’s special because she is a citizen to the nth degree. And her day to day life is governed by that.
Here is one of my personal takeaways from Malala’s story. If one one-hundredth of our U.S. population stepped up to be one-tenth as good a citizen as Malala is, our nation would undergo a transformation. We would give and receive more help from our neighbors. We would have closer-knit communities and less fear of crime. We would read more about the world around us, and vote in wiser ways. We would watch less TV. We would hide out alone in our cars less, and make more trips via walking, bicycling, transit and carpooling. The reduced TV-watching and driving would make us healthier and less obese. We’d buy less luxury items like electronics, video games, cosmetics and jewelry, and give more of our discretionary income to things that express deeper values, like education for those who don’t yet have it.
Malala expresses plenty of opinions in her book. But her story shows us that being a citizen is not about holding opinions, but about taking actions. The actions of a citizen don’t make us dollar-rich, but they make us rich in what matters. For example, Malala’s life is rich in meaningful work. She is generous and deeply respected. She has close, loving relationships with her family (though she admits she fights with her younger brother).
All of us can cultivate meaningful work, generosity, respect and loving relationships. We don’t even have to risk being shot in the head to do that.
Malala is clear that she wants the focus not on herself, but on education for the world’s children, 57 million of whom are not in primary school. She and her father have started the Malala Fund for that purpose. Malala wants to be a politician when she grows up, one who serves people instead of power, who is not corrupt, and who keeps promises.
In the bigger picture, Malala shows us how to not conform to our culture when our culture is sick. I see climate change and our failure to address it as a cultural sickness. Malala inspires me to go farther down the path I have discussed earlier of committing civil disobedience to draw attention to climate change. My birthday party next month involves a speaker, Bonnie McKinlay, who has committed civil disobedience for climate change more than once. She is centered, happy. Rich in what matters.
Remember: I’m doing a drawing for a free copy of “I Am Malala”. To get into the drawing, subscribe via email to Diamond-Cut Life, on your right. Takes about 30 seconds. You’ll promptly receive a verification email; click inside it to complete. Easy to unsubscribe with a click any time. If you already subscribe via email and want to be in the drawing, just tell me so in a comment. I’m doing the drawing on Thanksgiving Day.