THERE IS A MAN from the Northeast who left his native Pakistan many years ago, worked hard, got his green card, and brought his family to the United States. He is a very good person, a proud American citizen who plans to vote this November because, as he tells me, this country has given him so much and he has a duty to return the debt.
We are lucky to have him.
He is lucky, too. If he were still living in the Swatt region on the border with Afghanistan, every day would bring with it the possibility of death. It is a part of the world where young girls must hide in their homes if they want to learn reading, where child marriages are commonplace and where the Taliban rules.
My friend has two daughters. They don't need to shroud their faces when they go out into the street, are able to choose their own friends and, most importantly, walk with their heads high into the classrooms they love.
For this, more than anything else, my friend rejoices in the greatness and promise of America.
I never fully understood what it meant to be from Pakistan, or any other country where my gender was a birth defect. I've always had the best schooling, unlimited opportunities and men in my life who said "go ahead" instead of "follow behind me."
I've learned a few lessons from "Salim," including the importance of humility (haven't excelled in that subject) enthusiasm in little things (like running water and functioning electricity) and tranquility of spirit.
More importantly, I've learned true gratitude for the freedom that I, a woman, possess.
That's why the recent talk of a war on my gender angers me to the point that I want to scream. "Have you, my sisters, lost your senses?"
Sandra Fluke with her simpering demands and outstretched hands makes me ashamed to call myself a woman, makes me want to sit this Georgetown law student down and tell her the story of Malala Yousafzai.
Sandy has spent so much time this summer and fall drumming up sympathy for her condom crusade that she probably hasn't heard about this Pakistani woman, really just a child of 14, who was shot in the head last week by an enraged group of Taliban soldiers.
Her crime? Speaking out about the importance of education. Teaching her friends how to read. Meeting with ambassadors and other important men, asking them to do something for the women of her beleaguered country.
Malala is in a coma now, and no one knows if she'll awaken. If she does, there is a strong possibility that this brilliant young girl who spoke multiple languages and loved literature will be brain-damaged, blind or unable to breathe on her own.
I asked Salim about Malala, and he shook his head. "This is why I came here 13 years ago," he said to me. "My oldest daughter was 5 when I left Pakistan, and I knew that if I stayed, she would never have the life I dreamed for her." Now, his beautiful firstborn is finishing high school, contemplating college and stretching wings that would have been crushed under the weight of the Taliban.
Salim looks at his own child and thinks of Malala. "I feel for that young girl's father," he says. "I know what he is going through just now, and I understand the emptiness in his soul. It could have been my own."
Perhaps Sandra Fluke might learn a few important lessons from Salim. She could put down her torts-and-contracts books for a few minutes and look into my friend's beautiful blue eyes, listen to him talk about American promise and opportunity, see his brilliant teenager and reflect on the message she's been trying to sell us for the past contentious months.
For all of its superficial imperfections, this country loves its women. It gives us ample space to develop interests and skills, respects our right to earn an education, demands that we be treated equally at work and in the sports world, and even legislates creatively so we can do whatever we want with our reproductive parts.
But for Sandy, that wasn't enough. She and her like-minded friends wanted all of this, plus free birth control. They wanted to make the rest of the country believe that women were being "raped" when they submitted to a legitimate medical procedure. They screamed bloody murder when the highest court of the land said you couldn't dismember an infant and call that "choice."
Malala Yousafzai lies in a coma, because she wanted to go to school. Sandra Fluke earns accolades because she wants the government to subsidize her love life.
Someone needs a reality check.