Thursday, September 04, 2003

It's been ten years since Rashmilla Shakya lost her job. Since then, she has been living with the aid of her family, and her meager forty dollar per month pension. Since she previously worked almost all of her life in the same area of expertise, her sudden lay-off was devastating to her, as she possessed almost no marketable skills-- she knew only one life, could do only one job, and that was suddenly, wrongly denied to her. Hundreds of thousands of victims of age discrimination know this same pain. The different thing about Rashmilla Shakya-- she was twelve years old. And worshiped by all Nepalis as a living Goddess, the source of all divine power.

At least until she reached puberty. It is against custom for a Rushari, or Virgin Goddess, to menstrate, so when Rashmilla began, she was taken home to her family and started all over again as a commoner, a life she had not known since she was four years old. Human rights activists have severe moral objections to this Nepali custom: When Rashmilla returned to her common life, she had no friends, no emotional ties to her family, no real world experience. She could neither read nor write.

Oh, cry me a river.

Here is a debate over the horrid mistreatment of a little girl worshiped on high by 23 million people, raised in a palace, granted her every wish, and kept in perfect health. Meanwhile, 27 million of her Chinese neighbors are taking root in sweatshop floors, also unable to read with the exception of a handful of words like "CAUTION", "HIGH VOLTAGE", and "KATHY LEE". According to Gauri Pradhan, head of the Child Workers Group in Nepal, human rights became an issue about twelve years ago: the 80's were over, Designing Women was about to get cancelled, activists had to seek out a new kind of cruelty to rebel against. Still, I think their aim was slightly askew: Rashmilla was offered everything needed to blossom into a fully-developed adult, including a tutor. Reportedly, the man was too scared to force Rashimilla to study, but if this is the objection the Human Rights Activists have, they might start with the Northern California public school system: haven't these people seen Dangerous Minds? At twenty-two, Rashmilla is now in college, working on her degree in information technology-- all evidence suggests that she's adjusted just fine, as opposed to the illiterate masses in our own backyard, drinking in streets, starving in allies, running the WB.

Despite the criticisms, the tradition, which dates back to the 18th century, continues, if slightly altered. The monthly pension has been raised, and the girl's families are now given limited visitation rights. The remaining concerns seem based around the fact that at the age a girl is chosen, they are too young to understand the reality of the decision to become divine. They cannot begin to imagine the psychological repercussions of reaching the most crucial part of their existence at such an early age, rather akin to NBC's "America's Most Talented Kid". (There's something I'd rally behind activism against. As if reality TV in general weren't already a screaming indignity, we've got parents forcing their children in the surreal, perverse contests by the thousands and the industry's leaders cackling like the devil with a fresh helping of human souls. They know, you see, that starting the exposure of these little prodigies early lines them up for decades worth of entertainment to the extreme: Today, it's "Most Talented Kid", tomorrow it's "Most Insecure Teenager", fifteen years from now it'll be "America's Most Moving Therapy". Picture it, if you will: some kid who's parents pushed him to build his entire system of self-esteem in his ability to due Jimmy Durante impressions, laying across a couch, telling the world Liz Taylor-style how he never felt beautiful, giving us all the details of his Freudian need to be accepted for who he is by Lance Bass and Mario Lopez. But I digress.)

If it's the mature ability to make a level-headed decision they want, here's my solution: TAKE ME! I'm more than willing to sacrifice my life of privilege for...a life of even more privilege. Sure, I menstruate, but I wouldn't if I didn't take my birth contol patch one week a month. And if I'm going to be an unwilling virgin for an indefinite amount of time, I might as well be the Virgin Goddess-- actually, at nineteen years old and still biblically untouched, I think I technically am the Virgin Goddess. Let's compare: Due to religious objections to leather, a newly civilianized Rashmilla "recoiled in horror" when forced to wear shoes to school. I, too, feel that horror, every time I see a price tag at Lady Foot Locker. The Kushari must always be clothed in red-- I have the MP3 of "Lady in Red" in my Kazaa shared folder. One ritual in the initiation for a Rushari is to spend the night in a dark room with the heads of slaughtered buffaloes. I work at Burger King! We're practically Twins!

Until my long-lost birthright comes to rescue me, however, I think we're all forgetting about the real victim here: Rashmilla's sister, Pramilla, who was interviewed on Rashmilla's behalf. We all have our sibling rivalries, but what kind of hell must this girl have known? Growing up in a house with walls covered in pictures and portraits of your goddess sister-- what kind of accomplishment could even come close? "Mommy, mommy! I got all A's on my report card!" "Your sister's a goddess, kid, keep trying." It's the ultimate Jan Brady complex. How must it have felt, even, just to do the interview. "Pramilla, honey, there's a reporter here who wants to speak to you--" And for a moment, her heart is all a flutter with hopes for the attention she never before received--- "about your sister."

And it all comes crashing down again.

All melodrama aside, this girl is no more a victim than Sharon Osbourne is a talk show host. If an entire nation needs an uneducated little girl with a painted third-eye to give their lives religious focus, then we aren't the people to judge, not when our religious beliefs are being guided by the future stars of "America's Most Pedophilic Priests". There are a lot more productive things that a human right's activist could be doing with their time--There's hunger, devastation, humiliation, disease. For god's sake, there are people children being abused out there, there are fathers raping daughters, and I have to go to work at seven AM tomorrow morning! Where are the protesters at Burger King's door, holding signs that say "FREE LINDA", huh? No where!

It's always Rashmilla, Rashmilla, Rashmilla.

On with it.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

It seems that, at current, Blogger's "Would you like to save this post?" function does about as much good as Gary Coleman's run for Governor...the good people at Blogger have vowed, however, to correct this problem, and I trust them implicitly, as you should always believe everything you read on the internet-- I can make a fortune working part time in these three easy steps, I will have a bigger penis, the American dream has been realized. Despite all the little hiccups the system has had to wipe out my writing-- the most frustrating thing for a writer, I can tell you-- my patience for blogger endures, and for one good reason: They were recently purchased by Google, and Google gives it's employees free ice cream. If that's not the American dream, I'll be damned if I can tell you what is.

And so it is that I apologize for the relative lateness of this post: as I mentioned before, the original text was lost to that distant internet heaven, a happy hunting grounds for the blocked pop-ups, missing images, and about a third of everything I've ever written.


The Greenwood Acres Full Baptist Church, of Shreveport Louisiana, is church dominated by black paritioners. Pastor Fred Caldwell, who heads up the church of about 4,000, finds himself tired of seeing the same black faces every Sunday and Thursday-- it's not a unique situation, reportedly. While we make strides to beat back racism in school, government, and the workplace, religion seems to be the one area that remains in a stagnant state of segregation. Churches all over the South are marked by one set of patrons or another. No, it's not a unique problem at all, but Fred Caldwell has come up with a unique solution (sic). Fred Caldwell's answer is simple: Pay 'em.

Five dollars an hour to attend mass on Sundays and Ten on Thursdays, specifically, for white people to attend the black church. Pastor Caldwell calls thinks of his idea as radical, and says "This isn't just a good idea. This is a God idea." The Pastor claims he is working to fulfill God's vision: A vision not of hatred, not of segregation, but of bribery.

So it seems Pastor Caldwell skipped the "Money is the root of all evil" part of the bible and skipped right to the part where Moses did the Egyptian's homework so they'd like him better. The craziest thing about the cock-eyed plan: Nobody seems to have a fucking problem with it. (At this point, I'd like to link to the article from USA Today that quoted supportive parishioners and even a religious official who agreed with the plan, but as the article was a few days old, it's either been moved or deleted. I can, however, point you in the direction of one article from the Los Angeles Times, currently featured or, which says it's "Not a bad idea" without a discernable hint of sarcasm-- which worries me. I can understand, almost forgive, the blind, ignorant approval of a bunch of backwoods sister-kissing Louisiana locals, but when a presumedly educated journalist from LA agrees with something like this, I have to take a step back and seriously assess the situation. The nation is going downhill, state by state, and when the whole state of California starts sinking into the Pacific, 30 million glossy-eyed, fake-breasted people are going to die with the words still coming off their lips: "Help us, Governor Coleman." But I digress.) Indeed, the officials think it's revolutionary, the black parishioners are offering their monetary support, and the white are suppressing their laughter. One new white member of the church, Forrest Hohman, is part of an anonymous cultural organization whose entire local chapter will be attending the Church. Hohman, too, is supportive, saying, "Well, if dem...want to pay us to go to their lil' black church, we'll take dat money, all right., you know, we's got costs. We need funds to buy some things we've been needing-- sheets, lighter fluid, crosses, y'know. Plus, we been meaning to scout out Got ourselves a new project, ya know?"

One cannot help but marvel at the progress we've made as a society. We've made it through slavery, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil Rights Movement, numerous race riots, and the reintroduction of Oprah's Book Club. Hundreds of years ago, white people forced Africans onto ships, taking them from their homes and forced them to work without payment and to worship the white God. Now, blacks are bringing white people from their homes via Volkswagens and paying them to worship...the god the white people gave them in the first place. It seems, after hundreds of years, we can finally begin to imagine a society where people are judged not by the color of their skin, but by their willingness to pay for our approval. Amen!

It seems the pastor, who, surprise surprise, has the dark shadow of a suicidal junkie lurking in his past, has missed the point: If you are going to be a leader of men, you must first learn how to instill the right motives. You cannot inspire people with threats, of false promises, or with money. If you're going to lead people to brotherhood and compassion, if you're going to accomplish a greater good, you must do it the way god intended: With ice cream.

All the races of Breyers, together in peace.

May Google be with you. On with it.