Monday, 8 November 2010

A tough read

Culling through news headlines this morning, I came across one of the most powerfully reported features I've seen in a long time: an article and accompanying photographs in the New York Times on female self-immolation in Afghanistan, a horrifying and apparently common act of desperation among Afghani women who are oppressed and abused by their husbands, fathers, brothers, and in-laws. Fire, it seems, is one of the few resources available to these women when their lives seem unbearable, appealing particularly because it seems surefire: the worst outcome of a suicide attempt would be surviving it, and jumping from the roof, for example, leaves too high a risk of such a fate. Nonetheless, as the article showed, more than a few women are so unlucky as to survive attempted immolation. The article was difficult to get through, profiling several individual survivors, but the photographs accompanying it were truly devastating. I don't think I've ever seen such intense suffering captured by a camera. Seeing one woman convulsing in agony as the bandages on her full-body burns were changed brought tears to my eyes and, I hope, to the eyes of people all around the world today. At a time when the future of journalism is precarious, and sloppy, frivolous reporting abounds, this feature was a powerful reminder of the force of the best kind of reporting -- brave, honest, revelatory, important. This is the type of reporting that can bring about change for the good in our world, and seeing this feature this morning has had me thinking all day about how I can convert my emotional response to it into something more proactive and useful.

A final, lighter note on my culinary achievement of the day. When I get home late late after a lecture, investing even more of the evening in making dinner does not always appeal. Sometimes, though, resisting the urge to slam a quick fried egg sandwich or similar more than repays the effort. After taking the first bite of my dinner at 8:30 tonight, I was very glad indeed that I'd taken the time to throw together one of my all-time favorite fall dishes, Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad from Smitten Kitchen. Every time I taste this salad, I'm ready to scrap every other butternut squash preparation I know. This is just the best.

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