Content warning: content, much of it cranky. If you’re not cranky, you’re not paying attention.
* * *
Here is the understated headline of the article MH alerted me to, in Tuesday’s NY Times:
I find the passive voice repugnant – burns to death? The girl didn’t just spontaneously combust. She was beaten and set on fire, after being bartered away as a 6th grader to settle a family dispute – treated and discarded as the piece of dispensable property women ultimately are in such brutal and backward cultures.
Clash of values. What an obscenity it becomes, being put so mildly. And how many times have I read variations of this grotesque play out of cultural values?
Go ahead, do the search yourself. You can Google until you gag with this subject, and also with the knowledge that for every story of the barbarous treatment of women and girls that makes the news, thousands more are not headline grabbers; rather, it’s just Life Goes On in Afghanistan and other Islamist cultures.
Back to the shiny happy first story. In the final paragraphs of the NY Times article, the story tells of how a relative of the family suspected in the girl’s torture and murder was questioned, by a criminal investigator and local activists, as to whether the girl was even old enough to consent (to the bartered marriage) in the first place.
“Why are you asking me? Go ask the Prophet,” (the relative) said, explaining that they were merely following traditions from the Prophet Muhammad’s time.
As I have no doubt noted before in this space, I am not a cultural relativist. I abhor the fact that there is even such a concept as cultural relativism. And if you support it or defend it and I find out about it, I am going to go all medieval judgmental on your ass. Because the idea that people’s backwards and bigoted beliefs and cruel behaviors should be understood in terms of their culture leads to backwards and bigoted beliefs and cruel behaviors being defended or even excused…because it’s their culture.
You bet your ecumenical ass I’m gonna judge that. Judging cultures – any and all cultures – is what we all should be doing.
Discerning differences and making choices are good and necessary practices. It is wise to judge a tree by the fruit it produces. If your pear tree consistently produces sour-tasting, parasitic-ridden pears that rot before they ripen despite your best horticultural and pest control efforts, you’d best leave it to the bees and get your Anjous elsewhere.
Don’t let any mush-brained cultural apologist fool you into thinking there are not valid criteria for testing or judging beliefs, world-views or practices, whether religious or non-religious. There are criteria, and they focus on the centrality of that most humanist value, compassion. Analyze a belief, worldview or practice – does it lead to compassion and loving kindness? Or does it produce in its adherents certainty, self-righteousness, belligerence, and the domination of the powerful us over the vulnerable them? 
A worldview that teaches humility, gratitude, love and compassion and fosters equal responsibility and equal justice for all, is “better” than one that justifies or permits slavery and/or inequality and/or values (or even demands) incuriosity and ignorance re the natural world and/or preaches fear and guilt or the domination of the majority by a plutocracy.
Way back in the ’60s and ’70s I heard the argument that the ideology of Apartheid was part of the Afrikaaner culture; thus, who are we, as non South Africans, to understand or judge South African society? When enough of us worldwide stopped accepting that excuse, Apartheid was ended.
As a brown-skinned person with a Muslim name, I can get away with a lot more than you’d think. I can publicly parade my wife or daughters around in head-to-toe burqas and be excused out of “respect” for my culture and/or religion, thanks to the racism of lowered expectations.
( Pakistani-Canadian writer and physician and self-described “Atheist Muslim” Ali A. Rizvi )
“Go ask the prophet.”
Fuck your prophet. Fuck anyone’s prophet. Fuck your shitty prophet’s shitty, primitive, ignorant, Iron Age, intellectually dysenteric misogyny still practiced as “traditions” by the various prophets’ blinkered, small-minded, ignorant followers Find some kind of shield, place it over prophet-following countries, and remove it when there’s nothing left but the cockroaches. 
So. On my good days, I try to remember the individual women living in such cultures. I try to think of the almost 500,000 women sponsored via an organization I’ve supported for many years, an international organization which works directly with “marginalized women in 8 countries  affected by war and conflict…to offer support, tools, and access to life-changing skills to move from crisis and poverty to stability and economic self-sufficiency,” via offering these women “job training, business and life skills, access to opportunity and more.”
On my bad days,  I consider the email I got from said organization informing me of the new “sponsored sister” I’ll be supporting for the next 18 months and think, What’s the point? I think about the fact that this woman lives in Afghanistan, and I am sponsoring her…for what? To “access opportunity” in a culture of this?
* * *
Department Of I Tried, I Really Tried…
…to force myself to watch a live telecast of the Republican Convention.
Yes, really. Civic Duty ® and/or Informed Citizen ® , and all that.
* * *
Speaking of disasters,
Department Of This Should Come As Little Surprise, But Still…
I’m shocked – shocked! – that anyone associated with the self-anointed Law and Order candidate would engage in such bald-face, bare-assed thievery.
Please tell me someone is planning to sue for plagiarism, after many journalists and bloggers pointed out that portions of Melania Trump’s convention speech contained “striking similarities” – i.e., word for word pilfering – of Michelle Obama’s address at the 2008 Democratic convention.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Oh – cynical moiself. Who am I to judge?  It was difficult for Melania, growing up as a black woman in Chicago. Just ask her daughters, Sasha and Malia.
* * *
Department Of Yes It’s True I Live To Burst Your Bubble
In our over-stressed and under-thought society, we esteem the concept of taking time out from our busy lives to notice, admire and appreciate the simple pleasures in life. We even have an advisory adage for it:
I am someone who stops to smell the roses, whenever I’m out walking and come across a particularly alluring one. Thus, I feel entitled to add a cautionary addendum to that adage.
If we (claim to) appreciate taking the time to seek the beauty in the everyday world, I hope we also appreciate telling the truth about performing such acts. Because the thing about stopping to smell the roses is that if you do so you will, at times, feel sorely disappointed – even betrayed.
As MH can testify, many is the time I’ve paused on our walks or hikes to sniff a beautiful flower, only to indignantly exhale, What is this – they call this a rose!?
Not every rose smells like a rose, or like any blooming thing at all, for that matter.
Not every visually enticing flower has a fragrance worthy of its name. Some of the most visually stunning roses seem to have no scent at all, as if they’ve had their monoterpenes bred out of them. The beautiful grandiflora salmonie that caught your eye may not have a whiff of anything remotely floral  emanating from its delicate, salmon-colored petals.
* * *
May you, like Trump Missus #3 in a series,
have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood and call bullshit (and plagiarism) when they hear it;
May you beware of trees producing rotten fruit;
May you take the risk and stop to sniff the blossoms anyway;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Be it men over women, true believers over infidels….
 I would like to find a shield that would let the innocent flora and fauna survive, but the people, I’m not so sure are worth preserving. Even the “victims” of such cultures go on to victimize others, as that is how they are raised.
 Ah, but if Trump were president, a rocket launcher in every garage!
 Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan.
 Or perhaps, realistically, those are also good days?
 And less psychologically disturbing.
 Oh, that’s right – I settled the judgy thing in the previous rant.
 Or remotely salmon…for which you may be grateful.