We aren’t more civilized in our behavior

A recent Viewpoint illustrates a U.S. superiority complex, a world where abuses of power, corruption, bribery, and sexual inequality happen in Afghanistan, not here in the U.S. That’s not our reality here.

BRATTLEBORO — I find it difficult to understand Richard Davis's assertions of “cultural differences” and how Afghans “behave” in juxtaposition to the apparently homogeneous “us” here in the U.S. The underlying colonial message suggested we are more civilized in our behavior and it might be “difficult” for us to come in contact with our new Afghan neighbors. Moreover, I was disturbed by the level of racism, supremacy, and misleading information throughout his piece.

Davis asserts that the “political world [Afghans] come from [...] is immersed in bribery and abuses of power.” Davis either has historical amnesia or ignorance, a characteristic product of our education system.

After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the U.S. armed fundamentalist militias, wreaking havoc on the country and giving rise to Taliban power in 1996.

The post 9/11 U.S. presence in Afghanistan (an abuse of power, by the way) was accompanied by the familiar guise of noble humanitarian missions to “liberate” women. People may remember Laura Bush and her 2001 impassioned radio address to fight for the dignity of Afghan women, as if Afghan women were passive actors, obscuring the decades of political work of women activists in their own country.

How about we talk about the U.S. military's “abuses of power?”

When it comes to women, the U.S. military perpetrates repeated sexual violence and other abuses against women, both within its ranks and outside. One in three women in the military are raped by fellow service members.

On the outside, women are constantly impacted: the award-winning 2012 film Living Along the Fenceline highlights the ways in which U.S. bases and expansionist projects abroad impact women - from environmental concerns, to health, to sexual trauma.

And let us not forget the abuses like Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004. The atrocity of that alone should instantly squash Davis's finger pointing of corruption.

* * *

Davis also voiced his “discomfort” that “Afghanistan culture does not support equality of the sexes. Men dominate their wives [...] a cultural difference that we must accept.” His point is that due to the apparent sexual equality we embrace here, this will be discomforting to us.

Here again, I am unclear what Davis must see and experience here in the U.S.

Davis writes this at a time where Roe v. Wade is set to be overturned, a decision coming down from the majority-white-male Supreme Court. Trans rights are under attack (more anti-trans bills were passed in 2021 than any year before); the gender pay gap still exists; and 1 in 4 women experience intimate violence from their male partners.

But we must “accept” that apparently our “new neighbors” do “not support equality of the sexes.”

Davis writes this at a time when we are dealing with an epidemic of gun violence; a recent study clearly links mass shootings and a previous history of violence against women and misogynistic behavior.

But we must “accept” that apparently our “new neighbors” do “not support equality of the sexes.”

* * *

This rhetoric from Davis makes me think of a similar conversation I had around femicide, something that is often regarded as a phenomenon happening outside of the U.S.

Yet, in the U.S. almost three women every day die at the hands of their intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. And, again, we must “accept” our new neighbors.

News stories abound with incidences of missing and murdered Indigenous women, police brutality against women of color, sexual assault of women (here in Vermont, a 2020 report indicates a “disturbing degree” of sexual abuse in Vermont's only women's prison by male guards toward both female officers and those incarcerated).

I could go on and on.

* * *

This piece of Davis's is a dangerous product of a U.S. superiority complex that we have all been taught. Bribery, corruption, and abuses of power are something that happens over there, not here. Domination of women and sexual inequality is over there, not here.

Yet abuses of power, corruption, and bribery happen every day here in the U.S. by those who hold power. Sexual inequality is a daily reality here.

Additionally, Davis's thoughts feed right into putting the focus on inequity (here around gender) on individual behavior and attitudes.

Yes, patriarchy exists the world over and its broad manifestations impact all people. But we need for discussion to focus on U.S. militarism (the tool used for the unending seeking of profit and power), which kills, maims, and upends people's lives both here and abroad.

This is the source of “discomfort” we all should have.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates