This week, the world grew familiar with Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by Taliban, left for dead because she spoke out for girl's right's to attend school. She was nominated but did not win the Nobel Peace Prize, but her message, what she stands for, is rippling across the globe like tremors of a great earthquake that is sure to shake the foundations of injustice everywhere. What started out with one girl's hesitant voice in the darkness has led to a million, and soon a billion voices demanding education and basic human rights for our girls.
Who are these men who could shoot an innocent, unarmed girl in the head (they actually shot three girls)? And in the name of religion? Fucking cowards. And this morning I look at my sports news and see that Adrian Peterson's 2-year old son was beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend. What kind of man can strike an innocent, defenseless 2-year old, yet alone beat him to death? Soulless.
There is so much violence, so much hatred, so much degradation in the world it's often too shocking to even look at. When mob mentality becomes the rule, all conscience is lost. Bikers stomping a man bloody and unconscious in front of his wife, a barbaric gang rape on a bus in India, forcing our daughters into sex slavery in nearby Cambodia, reports of the U.S. military harassing and raping its own female soldiers at rates we'd expect in sub-Saharan Africa, not metro Washington DC. What kind of men are these who not only participate in this disease, but allow it to happen? It's never excusable, but for some we can attribute the cause to lack of education, the repetition of vicious cycles, backward cultural norms, and extremism. But what is our excuse?
What type of men are we?
Wherever I look, I see a lot of big mouths and fake tough guys, braggarts and machismo. It's hard not to become discouraged, no matter where you are in the world. But then, if I dig a little deeper, I am reminded of good men, too - beams of light that penetrate the thick canopy of misogyny and violence. I have a friend in Sacramento who gets into the MMA ring to raise money for a single mother with cancer. Another who started a foundation to give education and opportunities to poor girls in Nicaragua. A few awesome people in my home town who design t-shirts that raise esteem and self image for girls. A restaurant here in Vietnam who donates their proceeds to fund local orphanages. It goes on and on if you look for them - so many that give their time, money, and caring, often outside of the public eye.
Maybe that's where the true strength of our cause lies, the ones we should be celebrating - men who stand up for our daughters, wives, sisters, and mothers quietly, every day, not because they have anything to gain but because its the right thing to do? They're often not glamourous, not flashy, but those who fight for love and peace never are. Women - don't forget to say 'thank you,' and give a hug to the them some time, because they're tired and overwhelmed and need encouragement, too.
I promise you this: it's not too late. If we'd learned anything from Malala it's that a movement for good can go from one person to a million to a billion in the blink of an eye. There's still time to make a difference, to help one girl speak up for her right to education, to give shelter to one teenager with bruises on her face, and to encourage all of our daughters to grow strong and powerful and beautiful and limitless.
So what kind of men will we become? I tend to be optimistic in my conversations with the universe, so I'll make a demand, not a request - of myself and my fellow men:
We will pay respect not just to our mothers but to all mothers.
We will treat our girlfriends or wives like we'd want someone to to treat our own daughters when they're older.
We'll always treat women like equal human beings, not objects.
We'll realize that when women grow stronger it isn't a threat to us.
And lastly, we'll stand up and fight for those who can't fight for themselves.
I promise you, by doing so we will change the world.
And thanks and big hugs to:
Crazy Kevin DeLong
The High Place Foundation with my homie DeWitt Foster III
BackWords with old friends Bryan Donahue and Ron Carrano
Lanterns Restaurant in Nha Trang, Vietnam
All of the other good men I'm forgetting.