Sunday, October 05, 2008

Voices becoming quiet

Within the last week or so, three real-world heroes have passed away. One of them was successful while the other two were still fighting their battles. Two of them died of natural causes, while the last one was killed by her opponents.

I think it's important to honor these people, by remembering their fights, and keep fighting when necessary.

The first of the three to die, was Lieutenant Colonel Malalai Kakar, the highest ranking woman in the Afghan police force. The existence of such a strong female was of course intolerable to the Taliban, who considered her a direct threat to their world view, and in the end, that ended up costing Malalai Kakar her life. On September 28th, some men caught her in an ambush, and killed her. This was not the first attempt on her life - in an earlier episode she managed to kill three attackers - but unfortunately it was the last. Again, the ugly side of religion rears its head.

BBC coverage

The second of the three, and the only successful one, was J.L. Chestnut Jr., a person I hadn't heard about, until I read his NY Times obit, but who certainly qualified to be considered a real-life hero.

J. L. Chestnut Jr., who after attending law school in Washington returned to his hometown, Selma, Ala., and set up shop in 1958 as the city’s first black lawyer, and who went on to fight for voting rights for blacks, laying the groundwork for the march led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery in March 1965, died Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala. He was 77 and lived in Selma.


Sad that it took his death for me to hear about him.

NY Times obit

Finally, the third person to die, was someone I had heard about in the past, but who I know little about, except for his role as a voice for civil rights in Singapore.
I'm speaking of J. B. Jeyaretnam, who was the key opposition figure in Singapore - a country which appears fairly civilized, but which has decidedly totalitarian tendencies. Jeyaretnam's fight for civil rights cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered successful, but the symbolic value of it cannot be overestimated. The simple fact that someone is actually ready to speak out for it, is an important thing in itself.

NY Times obit

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