World Culture

Zimbabwe's Political Crisis: What Now?

Today, more of our continuing coverage of the crisis in Zimbabwe with Ambassador Jendayi Frazer, the U.S.'s top envoy in Africa. She is on her way to the Africa Union summit in Egypt.

What role do you think the U.S. can constructively play in a crisis like this? You cannot look at pictures of children — yes children — and women being herded onto police trucks for the crime of seeking sanctuary at an opposition meetinghouse and NOT be moved to anger or frustration.

But then what?

What should the U.S. do?

Do you think the lack of democratic process in Zimbabwe should be a concern of the U.S.? ... Of the UN?

Remember the conversation we had about Myanmar and the debate over whether the misgovernance in the regime's refusal to permit outside aid was so egregious as to require outside intervention? What is the standard?

And, the so-called teen pregnancy pact in Gloucester, Mass. ...

Seventeen girls at Gloucester High School are pregnant — more than four times the number in the previous school year in the school of 1,200 students.

The principal of the school says he discovered that at least some of the girls decided it would be great to all get pregnant together; now one teen has come forward to say there was no pact, but the reporter says she heard what she heard. And the principal isn't talking anymore.

But the question remains: why are 17 girls, none older than 16, all pregnant in a world in which a pack of condoms costs, what, a few dollars? And can often be had for free.

What's up with that? Does anybody buy the Zoey 101 theory? Celebs make it look easy.

And, finally, the what NOT to say series we are running with DiversityInc Magazine. This month's segment: what not to say to LGBT co-workers. DiversityInc has this hilarious (to me) column on the most offensive compliments. (I can't even bring myself to pick a favorite — "You don't look gay" or "You speak so well. No one would even know you're black" are up there though)

And no, we're not trying to be grievance merchants, but I would like to know what's the most offensive thing ever said to you in the guise of a compliment?

No matter what your demographic.



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Did I hear Mr. Visconti correctly in the Seven Deadly Statements segment? Did he say that a person who states his/her religious beliefs regarding the morality of homosexuality cannot work for organizatons that have a commitment to diversity and/or multiculturalism? What's the logic here: fight intolerance with intolerance?! I believe in building and protecting inclusive environments, but I don't think that doing so involves prohibiting the expression of beliefs and ideas. How about finding a way to work together peacefully, respectfully, and productively?!

Sent by L Willis | 4:58 PM | 6-24-2008

"But the question remains: why are 17 girls, none older than 16, all pregnant in a world in which a pack of condoms costs, what, a few dollars? And can often be had for free."

The answer is that condoms aren't the answer; impulse control is. We expect the same adolescents who can't concentrate long enough to finish their English homework will now suddenly have the mental dexterity to plod through the 15 steps (yes, folks, 15 steps, according to the CDC) it takes to use a condom effectively. And, even if they use the condom effectively, there is still a 10-33% failure rate, depending on whether or not one partner has a latex allergy or whether unintended pregnancy or STD contraction is the measure of failure. Now, given the difficulties of condom use, tell me again why abstinance doesn't work (except if we are speaking tautologically, where abstinance always works).

Mind you, I don't think these girls would have paid attention to either the 15 steps to effective condom use or abstinance information. Some of them simply have mental gearboxes which are stuck on stupid, and there's no level of information which get it unstuck short of letting them hit their head against the same brick wall until they realize the wall won't move.

Hopefully, the children will be adopted by a good home.

Sent by Matthew C. Scallon | 7:19 PM | 6-24-2008

Having religious reasons for opposing the personal choices of others- that don't affect you- is an arcane argument similar to opposing interracial marriage, women working outside the home, etc. Multicultural people and diverse companies have to tolerate the existence of people who have intolerant views everyday. Choosing to separate yourself or your company from people who are intolerant is not a double standard. It's survival. It's the life of a "minority" in a "majority" world. Ignorance of this reveals one's privilege as part of the "majority."

Sent by Ezra | 11:14 AM | 6-25-2008

I don't think it's stupid to get pregnant on purpose or to give birth. I also do think that young women can negotiate the 15 steps of condom use and all of the complicated steps involved in procuring birth control.

"Impulse control" is not the answer to teen pregnancy. Refusing to tell people about sex won't prevent them from having sex, and denying young people education about sex and birth control won't keep them safe from sex, sexually transmitted diseases, or pregnancy. What works, and what has been demonstrated to work over and over again, is education -- about sex, about birth, and about birth control.

These 17 young women may be exceptional; in *More,* Robert Engelman argues that when given both education about and safe access to birth control, most women choose to control family size so that the advantages to their children are optimized. So in my mind, the question is this: What motivated these young women to choose to become mothers? Did they lack education or safe access to birth control?

Further, where are the fathers for these incipient human beings? Were they involved in the pact? The fact that the story is about 17 pregnant young women and their 'stupid' choices, with NO reference to the men or boys involved, is an indication that what "we" care about as a society is the scandal of teen pregnancy -- not the good lives of the young women and the potential children involved.

Sent by Rachel N H | 5:43 PM | 6-25-2008

By now, I've gone past the "offensive" feeling of some said comments in the guise of a compliment - things I call the "back-handed compliment." I see those comments more just as ignorant and sometimes funny.

The one I get a lot in the workplace and elsewhere is that I don't sound "black" over the phone. I'm still trying to figure out what the sound of blackness (other than the musical group)is.

The other one is "you speak so well." That back-handed compliment has been going on since college and those folks are still surprised when I don't say a "thank you" after such comment.

Then there are folks who assume everything about me just based on my introduction. A couple of years ago in a former workplace, I walked into the lobby and the receptionist introduced me to a white lady. I guess she wanted me to be very impressed with her so she started speaking French.

When she stopped, I told her I knew she just spoke French to me but I haven't taken French since the nineth grade, so my French is a bit rusty (more like it's not my first language); English would be just fine.

The white lady stood speechless for a few seconds before she apologized and the receptionist had to hold her laughter till the lady left the lobby.

Sent by Moji | 5:49 PM | 6-25-2008


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