The Common Good

As the World Turns

It’s 5 p.m. and I’m standing in my kitchen, one hand on top of the baby’s head, the other flipping fish. My daughter is talking nonstop about something — whether purple Tylenol is better than red, I think — and through the kitchen window I can see my oldest son taking out the trash.

Profile of a woman. Vector image courtesy Janos Hajnalka/shutterstock.com
Profile of a woman. Vector image courtesy Janos Hajnalka/shutterstock.com

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It is normal. It is dinnertime.

Over the mosquito-drone of children's ceaseless chatter, I hear the story on the radio and the room begins to spin. I cannot hold back tears, and I barely keep from retching. I’m unsure how the world continues to turn in the face of such news.

On Tuesday, twenty-five-year-old Farzana Iqbal was bludgeoned to death by twenty members of her family outside of a Pakistani courthouse while bystanders and police looked on. Farzana was three months pregnant.

Her killing and ritual humiliation were done for family honor, they said — her husband had paid for her, but the family wanted more money and the husband refused to pay. Some stories say she was killed for marrying a man she loved.

Yesterday her husband acknowledged that he had strangled his first wife so that he could marry Farzana. For that crime he spent one day in jail.

The fish begins to burn. My daughter becomes frustrated by my lack of “oh, really?”s and smiling nods. But with this news I am unsure how to continue functioning. Surely we must stop everything and change this? How can I shred lettuce, mix salad dressing, talk about my daughter’s new T-ball glove? Surely it is wrong to keep moving.

Farzana is but one of about 1,000 honor killings that take place each year in Pakistan. When I went online to read more about her life and death, I saw a related news story reporting that two teenaged girls — ages 14 and 15 — were added to that number yesterday, but not before they were gang raped and strung up on a tree to die.

The articles — deeply-buried under stories of Kate Middleton’s bare bottom and the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter — say that Farzana’s family felt they had to kill her— she had dishonored the family by giving herself to a man of her choosing.

Last week, Elliot Rodgers went on his own honor-killing spree, claiming girls should have chosen him.

Some die for choosing, others for not choosing. But they all die because they are women. Rogers was mentally ill, and there is debate about whether it was his illness or a misogynistic culture that caused his rampage. For Farzana’s family, and for the 1,000 Pakistani girls and women who die each year in the name of honor, there is no question.

This morning I perused Forbes' recently-released list of the top 100 most powerful women in the world. I am struck by their high-powered jobs, their massive earnings and earning-potential. I’m curious where Mother Theresa would have fit on that list. Where Farzana would have been. #12? 27? What about the 13-year-old girl whose double-take of a young man on a motorcycle caused her parents to kill her with acid? Their deaths, the message behind their deaths, have shaken me to my very core with the power that they wield. I am breathless and overcome with the enormity of their weight.

Do you feel it too? Power in surges and waves that crash over us in our kitchens, our cars, in the snippets of news we catch between Dora episodes. The strength is there, inviting us to the harvest until our stores become so full we simply can’t hold any more and we must share what we’ve gathered with the world.

For now, the day is about to begin; the children are sleeping late but will soon be awake, and I must remove one hat and don another. Because as hard as it is, I know I must keep moving, keep cooking dinner, keep smiling and nodding at endless chatter. Keep finding my balance on a spinning world.

Jamie Calloway-Hanauer is a Berkeley-based writer, attorney, wife, and mom of four. Her writing appears in numerous publications, including Sojourners and Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics. She is a contributing writer to Christian Feminism Today and a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Jamie blogs weekly at jamiecallowayhanauer.com, and you can follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @JamieHanauer.

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