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Behind the veil

By Isabel Lyman
web posted November 19, 2001

Amherst, Marxachusetts - For two long hours, I was the woman behind the veil.

Lyman and Kelley express their outrage

My pal, Dr. Donna Kelley, and I donned homemade burquas – a head-to-toe garment - to participate in Veteran's Day festivities on the Town Common. We carried a flag of Afghanistan decorated with a circle slash through it and were accompanied by a small entourage of friends that took turns holding Old Glory and a placard bearing twin messages. "Taliban oppresses/depresses women" was on one side, and "Happy Birthday, U.S. Marine Corps" was on the other. It was our way of expressing "peaceful outrage" at the criminal treatment of Afghan women by the Taliban, as well as honoring our armed forces. Multitasking at its finest!

By now, many of us have read the news reports about how the Taliban's Department of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice monitors the religious behavior of the fairer sex. In this extremist Islamic society, Afghan women, for instance, have received floggings for appearing in public without a male relative or for showing too much ankle.

So, there we were, on a chilly November day, clutching bed sheets we had draped over our jeans, walking in a hunched (read: oppressed) manner, and vowing to exercise our right to remain silent.

A reporter from the Associated Press, as well as the patriots who had gathered on the Town Common immediately "got" our attempts at political street theater. Many thanked us for taking a pro-woman stance and not one of my neighbors recognized me. (Tee-hee.) Donna and I appreciated the support, because it was really hard to see through the mesh that covered our faces, and it would have been difficult to chase a purse snatcher with all that cloth. "Like wearing a birdcage," as a local professor described our getup.

Unfortunately, we soon encountered the disturb-the-peace peaceniks. They had lined the street for their weekly "I Hate the Military" demonstration.

As we hobbled past a line of these losers, one cutie pie (borrowing a line from the tired-liberal-cliches manual) said to me, "I see racism is still alive." An elderly lady also had kind words for me: "They're bombing people like you."

This woman behind the burqua decided to speak. "Shut up!" I snapped at one. "Get a life!" I ordered another.

Not original or nice, but my mummy wrap seems to have constrained my creativity and unleashed my bad manners. Nearby, I could tell that Dr. Donna was also going at it with a fourth grade teacher. Mouthy. We became mouthy. And disheveled. My head gear was falling off, and Donna's pant legs were brazenly showing.

We were also demanding answers. Why would left-wing feminists, of all genders, hassle us, I asked University of Massachusetts graduate student Ed Cutting, who was on hand to support the troops. "You don't honestly believe that those folks actually believe their own literature, do you?" asked Ed. "They are fascists, and thus they have no trouble being hypocrites."

I know that, Ed. And, now, I also know why I quickly failed at impersonating a downtrodden femme.

When you regularly enjoy a life filled with liberty, opportunity, and adventure, acting like a victim is no piece of cake. Thanks to the sacrifices of our nation's veterans, American females, like Donna and myself, have grown accustomed to such a good life.

And what grand news last week … that the women of Kabul are beginning to liberate themselves from their veils, the men are shaving their beards, and the peaceniks are so over. Yahoo! Let freedom ring!

Izzy Lyman, author of The Homeschooling Revolution, can be reached at ilyman7449@aol.com.

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