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Old wounds 

The pains in my vagina have come back. Shooting pains throb up the left side every few minutes and I cannot figure out why. Awake most of the night, finger on the painful place, I breathe tenderness into the hurt. Then I remember.

Yesterday, I read several articles about the war in Afghanistan. I went for a walk with my husband and told him of my concern for the women there. He tried to reassure me. But for once, I didn't share his optimism.

I read a few more articles when we returned. One was about Tahmeena, a member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. Its volunteers have been working with people from all ethnic groups distributing humanitarian aid, providing underground medical care and teaching in secret schools. Recalling the period from 1992 to '96 Tahmeena said, "Afghans know the Northern Alliance. They remember their years of control as a time when women were raped en masse and young girls were forced into marriages with military commanders."

I recently went to a book reading at North Carolina State University. Writer Inga Muscio read a story about her mother, who was raped by two men when she was 9. Muscio told of growing up with a protective mother who finally broke down and told her two daughters when they were adolescents. It was devastating for all of them. "Committing a rape's something a man can feasibly do during his coffee break," Muscio read, "but the woman and maybe her children spend the rest of their lives dealing with it."

Of course, everyone I know says they are against rape, even though many people have not experienced its horror, total domination, humiliation, degradation, and wisp of personal guilt--"What did I do to cause him to hurt me so?"

People understand that rape is not any kind of solution, ever. So how come everyone doesn't feel the same way about war? We know about the atrocities of war. How can we take our anger at the terrorists and thrash it back out, escalating violence in the name of future peace and safety? How can we abhor rape and justify war?

For years I thought being raped at 12 had ruined my life. Yet as my vagina throbs from reading about women in Afghanistan, perhaps it is what connects me. Perhaps my old wound responds with indignation and a need to speak out on behalf of all women, everywhere. Surely the rape of the individual is a microcosm of the abuse of war. In fact, hasn't war been permission to rape, pillage and conquer the land, the body and the spirit?

I am an American now, a British American. The hatred we are exacerbating in so much of the world fills me with sadness, frustration and fear. Could the country that prides itself on being bigger and better rise in moral consciousness and explore creative alternatives to violence? As a new American citizen, I truly hope so, both for our own humanity and for the rest of the world.

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