Choose to Know

Nov. 21st, 2007

I am an American feminist information literacy librarian warrior.

The feminist warrior has a button, more than 20 years old, saying “Eve Chose to Know.

The information specialist has the Library Bill of Rights inscribed on her heart. The Freedom to Read Statement seems almost tautological.

The American – and I do mean politically American, steeped in the founding documents of this, our battered and roiling land – understands the First Amendment to the Constitution, in all its self-evidentiality, as the root-before-time of the above two positions, even though it was not ratified until 1791.

It is in this trinary persona that I look now at the recent case of a Saudi woman punished for being raped.

After a while, my chest hurts and my eyes hurt too much to contemplate too closely the women who are raped as national punishment, as ethnic punishment, as tribal punishment, as personal punishment, and who are then punished again – to the point of death – for having been raped. We have wept on this for years, fought and screamed and marched and have been told that it isn’t all that important and that we don’t understand the real issues anyway.

I will let others continue with this process.

What I need to talk about is the demand that these crimes be ignored; that no one speak of them, that no one listen to the complaints, that no one think about the implications and the results and the damage.

That no one write about them.

That no one read about them.

That they must continue to occur while at the same time being invisible to all except those immediately and currently involved: that once victimization is ended, that the victim also no longer speak of it.

No matter which government claims that it isn’t occurring, and anyway we don’t understand the context, and anyway it doesn’t mean what we think it means, and anyway it wasn’t that bad in the first place, and anyway our interest violates National Security and National Sovereignty and the personal privacy of the victims, the fact remains:

They want to do it – whether “it” is rape, or murder, or torture, or spying, or wiretapping, or blackmail, or unwarranted imprisonment, or prevention of employment, or any of hundreds of other things which our American forefathers specifically fought against during England’s wars on the Irish and their subsequent wars on the American colonists – and have the rest of the world, including their bloodied and murdered victims – pretend thoroughly that it isn’t happening.

But Mr. Justice Holmes said it most clearly and emphatically when he dissented in ABRAMS v. U S in November of 1919:

Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care whole heartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas-that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. [emphasis added]

I beg you: read. Think. Get alternate views of what is happening. Be skeptical, especially of self-serving statements. Pick a cause, at most no more than three, on which to focus – no one has the energy for more, and there are enough of us to cover everything – and be diligent in your search for information on it or them.

Be like Eve. Choose to hear. Choose to see. Choose to know.

And, knowing, then choose how to act.

Tuppence in the change bowl.

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