On October 28th, Upworthy posted a story about Saudi women demanding the right to drive. Amnesty International supplied the photo used to illustrate the post.
(Those of you with larger monitors may be able to tell us if the image is actually a collage made from many smaller images. The resolution of the resulting master image does, however, shield the identity of the woman behind the wheel.)
I commented, “Fantastic! Go, Go, Go. To hell with the arrogant patriarchs in Saudi Arabia who have nothing better to do than waste their lives trying to preserve irrational, infantile oppression.”
Well, it seems I hit a nerve. Or perhaps my words, which do lack diplomatic restraint, appear menacing to the fragile ego of some Saudi man. A reply to my enthusiastic posting appeared the next day:
"Old fart, don't talk about Saudi Arabia like you have something to do with it... STFU if you have nothing valuable to say."
I was ecstatic. “Hey, look!” I said to family and friends, “I have a “Minder!”” Some, less interested in world affairs, were unfamiliar with the job title, so I had to pitch the perks of being able to tell someone where they could go, who they could talk to, and when they had to STFU!!!
It was signed by one Abdulaziz Al-harbi, surely a storied and noble nom du guerre if ever there was one.
Now, gentle reader, suspend the urge to form any opinion. These, I assure you, were merely his opening remarks, a linguistic appetizer calculated to generate interest and anticipation. I awaited the enlightening expose of Saudi life and culture which would render my comment rash and uninformed.
Amnesty International does, after all, poke its nose into things which it frankly knows everything about, with the unfortunate result that it causes much ado about something.
But I waited...waited...waited, still confident the deeply wounded Al-harbi would climb down from the heights of outrage and commence a dialog which generated more light than heat, that he would refute Amnesty's misinformation campaign with facts and reason, that...well, okay, yes, I'm still waiting.
I was the recipient of an angry outburst, and nothing more. No explanation, no conversation, not even an argument. A remarkable outburst, though. Apparently Abdulaziz has some issues around equal rights for Saudi women, but he's mortally afraid of talking about them, and almost as afraid to see a Saudi woman at the wheel of an automobile. Would it, Abdulaziz, mean the end of Saudi civilization as you know it? Has Saudi culture reached an acme of perfection such that change can only cause decline? It can only help to talk about these fears, to see if they are at all valid.
Much like the corporate class, Al-harbi may see his status and privileges threatened, hence the ferocity of the outburst. And like those he imitates, he believes absolutely in his right to privilege, and need answer to no one, nor explain or justify his words and actions.
Abdulaziz, you may not understand much of the culture you've been exposed to here in the United States, and your diaspora may be of great comfort to you as you thrive in this strange place, but you can't help but notice that women drive here, and our culture remains quite functional. I'm sure you have judgments, we might call them ethnocentric prejudices, about just how functional and sustainable American culture is, but in that you and I agree. There is plenty wrong with the status quo here. But you cannot fail to see that here in the United States women and men are both allowed to criticize culture, government, religion, even cultural norms that contain dysfunctional elements of dubious origin, and they can do so in public, in the press and in other media. Here it is the norm, and is encouraged, in both women and men.
Ahhh, perhaps you took my comment as an insult directed at Saudi Arabia. Put that notion to rest. Please note that I disparaged “arrogant patriarchs”, by which I mean those men who speak without knowledge or authority, who insist on dictating to others what is normal, right and healthy, all the while enjoying lives of undeserved and unearned deference and privilege. We have such fools in abundance here, and Americans are free to call them fools, even to their faces. Now a glance at your Facebook photo suggests you don't even fit the demographic I disparaged, so why all the sound and fury?
You were free to address me in the manner you did (Welcome to America, btw), and you will not be detained, arrested, tortured, “disappeared” or deported. But you did fail to make any kind of well-reasoned argument that specifically addressed the issue. Why can't Saudi women drive? The podium is yours...and, uh, don't be offended if the first question you field is from a woman. You have no privilege here to ignore her, abuse her, or beat her into silence.
Educated and empowered women make myriad contributions to the quality of life we enjoy here, to the protection of civil rights and freedoms, to the economic growth and vitality of the business sector, to the arts, the sciences. We find, too, that they can be among the most effective profilers in our various security services. Seems when they latch on to some troublemaker, they just won't stop until...