n., pl. -las or -lae (-lē').
An abnormal duct or passage resulting from injury, disease, or a congenital disorder that connects an abscess, cavity, or hollow organ to the body surface or to another hollow organ.
"Newsweek" was kind enough to place a disclaimer on the article I'm about to discuss. Please click here if you would like to read it. I think that just further confirms that as a people, we've grown soft and we're a bunch of delusional assholes, but then again-- if you find yourself getting nauseated and growing hateful, do not read.
I'm giving you a couple of minutes to digest that information, because there is so much to talk about once you read a piece like that. And let's not get started on the comments, because sweet mother of God, we'd be in it forever.
If you've been reading "Zen Sarcasm" for a bit, you may know that I'm rather compulsive about certain things (if you're new, I'm pleased to know you've made it this far and hope you return-- especially after today's entry).
When I was pregnant with my son, I made sure to read loads of gruesome material on obstetric problems and complications because that is just the kind of sick person I am. I read about shoulder dystocia and about cord prolapse and about emergency cesareans where they don't have the decency to cut discreetly along your bikini line. But the one that made an impact was about the tears and their complications:
I read about how pushing or bearing down before a woman is ready to push can damage the vaginal walls-- this damage can also be caused by the sudden push forward of the baby's head as it crowns, or sometimes by medical equipment used to aid the baby in being born. Any of these traumas can cause something as minor as a small varicose vein or a scratch to something as large as a gashing wound --usually known as a "tear." These tears are classified by degrees-- from a minor lesion, which usually has no degree, all the way to a fourth-degree tear. A fourth degree tear is a tear that doesn't just involve skin: it is a gash through the muscle.
In some even more unfortunate but rare cases, that tear can involve the thin but very tough area separating the vagina from the anus, called the perineum-- and keep going. Sometimes the tear can involve the urethra as well. Sometimes those tears can be large and internal enough to allow urine or feces to pass along from one cavity to the other, opening up the possibility of infection. As you can imagine, these complications from childbirth can spell a lifetime of incontinence and discomfort for a woman.
Thankfully for those rare cases, they've given birth in the one country in the world which, despite being hated by so many, is still the country where so many millions want to come at any price and make their home. This country, where doctors labor under constant threat of lawsuits if their performance is less than stellar, has a very low rate of fourth degree tears and fistulas.
They are rare. They are horrible.
But in parts of Africa, where the word "genocide" no longer draws wide eyes or halted breath-- it's just another word, just like another empty promise from the first world-- the word "fistula" is nauseatingly common.
Here is where the "Newsweek" article comes in --and which I found through DasBecca. *chapeau*
I'm assuming you read the article. Young women --girls, who here in our country of abundance are allowed to run rampant with cell phones and grow surly if they do not get lavish sweet sixteen parties, brand-new cars or boob jobs as high school graduation presents-- are walking around with bed pans, trying to catch their own urine because it just drips away from them, thanks to the unrepeatable actions of some band of monsters who think nothing of shoving a rifle inside their vaginas. Over and over-- not just once and we're done kind of business.
Rifles. Guns. Foreign objects.
Are you cringing yet? Because we can always focus on the ages of the victims some more and realize that we ladies of leisure-- happy to trot off to World Market for some "ethnic" feel or gleeful to score some designer booty at Filene's Basement and look fabulous with a new haircut-- would instead be fearing for our husbands, our sons and our daughters and for ourselves. And it would be doubtful whether we'd make it to thirty in some cases, because of the severity of our wounds.
But do you know what the biggger problem is?
This is not just something that is happening in an isolated region of Africa. This is something that happens during civil wartime, in Africa and elsewhere. It's a weapon of war-- a vagina is just something else to acquire and destroy, no matter what the price or the repercussions. Have "The Vagina Monologues" not popped into your mind at this point, where the Bosnian woman talks about the atrocities in the rape camp?
This happens. It's happened. It could be happening now, and not even as far away as you might think. Not just now. Not just in Africa.
The bottom line in my mind is this:
There are so many atrocities happening in parts of Africa right now that we are completely unaware of. Just think about it, dear reader: do YOU know where Darfur is? If so, do you know what the conflict is all about?
Can you point to the Congo on a map confidently?
Did you know why they were people being killed in Rwanda before Don Cheadle told you about it?
Do you know why President Clinton harbors regrets regarding Somalia? Can you find Somalia on the map as well?
Can you find Africa on a map?
If you are anything like me, I am betting some sweet money that you a) found out about Darfur because it's the celebrity cause-of-the-week; b) maybe know it's in Sudan, but have no idea where Sudan is; c) can possibly locate the Congo because it's two big countries and a river so your odds are fairly good there; but you d) don't know where Somalia is and e) skipped "Hotel Rwanda" because it looked "depressing."
And yes, you can point to Africa on a map. It's the big thing below Europe, duh! The closer the better, for easier colonizing action, of course ;o)
You don't have to reply to this, and I'm not owning up to my own answers (except for Darfur, which I had heard about through celebrities but had NO idea about otherwise, to my deep embarrassment). But the point is still this: we don't know Africa very well, do we?
And the problem is still this:
As we sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner later this week and count our blessings or grow surly and disenfranchised because the turkey is dry or the stuffing has water chestnuts or your relatives arrived three hours too late again, this all is still going on. We can give money and we can educate ourselves, but that is not going to stop Congolese militiamen from gang-raping a 12-year old.
How can we help, if most of us don't even know it's happening and the rest of us are presumed too squeamish to even read an article about it?
How can we help, if we aren't willing to help at home? How many people go off to the Peace Corps to help people in foreign lands but do not even recognize the poverty, illiteracy and true, desperate, gaping need all around us?
How can we help, if wherever we send our troops as a country we are received with a mix of hatred and disgust-- but if we refrain from sending them in we are hailed as cowards of inaction?
How can we help, if we don't even know if our aid/money/donations/hard-earned cash are being spent correctly and aren't just ending up lining the pockets of so many corrupt government people?
There are no answers here, friends. There is only hope, and links to organizations which are, hopefully, not corrupt.
Title comes from this quote:
“The darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it.” George Kimble