I woke up this morning to find a Washington Post article about runner Feyisa Lilesa putting his hands in the shape of an “X” at the finish line of his silver-medal winning marathon run.
He was protesting the barbaric killing of his people, the Oromo, in Ethiopia by the Government under the guise of “fighting terrorism.” This is horrible and something worthy of a protest. Genocide is never, in any way, excusable. The comments section cheered him on as a brave man and a hero. I was feeling the love. Then I did something that I’m almost certain no one else who commented did. I googled The Oromo. Turns out that 80% of their females from age 4 to puberty are victims of the worst kind of Female Genital Mutilation (is there a good kind?) The kind where they have everything outside removed and the vagina is sewn up permanently, leaving only a tiny opening to allow for urination. It seems there has been a small reduction of these numbers in recent years, but the number should be zero. Zip. Nada. If this is the type of “freedom” they are fighting for, then I would suggest that the Oromo men forcibly have the tips of their penises removed and see how “free” they feel. This is freedom to repress one gender. Does this vindicate the murder of their people by their Government? Of course not. They should be allowed to live freely, practice any religion they choose, control their own lands and natural resources. But it does shed new light on the complexities of the problems in that region. Suddenly, I don’t see Lilesa as a hero or a brave man, but a man who protests only when something happens that threatens males in his community. If he were truly brave, he’d be advocating for the modernization of his people and the improved treatment of its women. So, instead of honoring the “bravery” of this man, I will be spreading the word to help Oromo’s women and girls. Not only are they being killed by their own Government, by they are being tortured and mutilated by their own people. They have no options. And all the hand signs in the world won’t help them.