Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Equal Opportunity Evil?

I've had reason over the last couple of weeks to ponder the question:  What if women ruled the world?

It all began with the film Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which tells the inspiring story of the women of Liberia who stood - quite literally - for peace in their country and made it happen. The film ends with the promise that the Liberian Women for Peace are ready to mobilize on a moment's notice if their families and communities are ever again subjected to the terror of war. 

(The woman who began that movement in Liberia...Leymah Gbowee...will receive the Gruber Women's Rights prize this week for her "demonstration of courage and commitment to a fundamental shift in culture in the face of significant obstacles.")

Not a fist was raised, a face slapped, or a bullet fired by these women in Liberia.  Good things happened.

And then there was the story of Jodie Evans, co-founder of CodePink: Women for Peace - who stood face to face with President Obama two weeks ago, wearing a pink t-shirt that announced "End the Afghan Quagmire," and handed him the signatures of thousands of women in Afghanistan who want to be part of making peace in their country.

As Jodie told the president, if good is going to come in Afghanistan, "the women need to be involved."  

And finally, there was the book on my nightstand, loaned to me by  my friend Karen, titled If Women Ruled the World:  How to Create the World We want to Live In.  The book is a product of the White House Project, the non-partisan, non-profit organization that exists to advance women's leadership in this country, "up to the U.S. presidency."  Among the 95 essays included in the book are works titled:  "We'd Put a Compassionate Face on America," and "We Would Walk a Mile in Each Other's Shoes," and "Bullying in All Forms Would Be Unacceptable."

Good things, it seems, would happen if women ruled the world.

Then came the headline this morning:
Bosnian War's "Iron Lady" Freed From Prison

...and I was compelled to investigate what happened when Biljana Plavsic ruled the Serbian world of Bosnia in the mid-late 1990s. 

Good things did not happen.  Horrible, terrible, nightmarish things happened to Bosnian Muslims who Plavsic deemed "genetically deformed."  She considered the torture, murder, rape, and displacement of Muslims a "perfectly natural phenomenon."

When it came time, in 2002, for the Iron Lady to stand trial for her crimes against the people of Serbia, she was, at least, clever enough to bargain with prosecutors.  She pleaded guilty to one count of crimes against humanity in exchange for seven counts of war crimes - including genocide - being dropped.

Then when her day in court came, she blamed Slobadan Milosevic for the whole thing and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.  She served less than seven before her release today.  

And so, Biljana Plavsic has pushed me out of my bubble of belief that if women ran the world, the relational nature that seems so inherent in our genetic make up would make world peace a walk down Easy Street. Take a look at this Plavsic quote from 1994:
I don't have much faith in political negotiations.  One good battle would settle this war.

So much for the kinder, gentler face of leadership.


Biljana Plavsic - Bosnia's Iron Lady

It was a wise man - Lord Acton - who said in 1887:
Power tends to corrupt.  And absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men.
And - sigh - bad women? 

Peace.

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