ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 5…Inside the Denver Pepsi Center two weeks ago Hillary Clinton was congratulating women on the progress they’ve made in the last eighty years. But outside, Leah Schildkraut was on a hunger strike in front of the heavily guarded doors of to protest what she called the “Democratic party’s willful neglect of the dire plight of women around the world.”
While Hillary was celebrating the fact that “my mother was born before women had the vote, but in this election my daughter got to vote for her mother for President,” Schildkraut, candidate of the Anarcho-Feminist party, was handing out leaflets detailing what she called: “the systematic genderocide of young, poor, vulnerable women throughout the world.”
As delegates and media types rushed by, heads down, focused on their iPhones and Blackberries, Schildkraut stood behind a rickety bridge table brandishing a copy of the Democratic Party Platform.
“The Democratic Party is the last best hope of women all over the world,” she said. “But aside from a ritual affirmation of Roe v. Wade and a promise to expand microcredit to women in the developing world, there is no commitment to end the campaign of intimidation and extermination being waged against them.”
Schildkraut was part of a heavily vetted group of bloggers, activists and ordinary citizens, who were denied access to the convention floor and had set up their banners and tables outside.
In the crowd was Efraim Durg, candidate of the Gambler’s Rights Party, who was advocating legalized marijuana and a “casino on every corner” as a cure for America’s ills. He listened with amusement as Schildkraut preached to the indifferent crowd.
“Millions of women have been victimized by sex traffickers,” she said. “Whole villages in Moldavia and Dniestra have been emptied of young women sent to the brothels in Western Europe…”
“Forget it,” Durg said.
Schildkraut ignored him. “In the Baluchistan province of Pakistan five women were killed for daring to try to choose their own husbands,” she said. “The women were thrown into a ditch, shot and buried alive. When two older women tried to intercede they were killed as well. A Baluchistan senator, Israr Ullah Zehri, said the killings were ‘part of our tradition,’ and ‘should not be highlighted negatively.’”
“Nobody cares,” Durg said.
Schildkraut persisted. “In Beirut, considered a civilized city, female domestic servants are imprisoned in the houses of their employers. The women are so desperate that they jump from high floors, some in a futile quest for freedom, others who prefer suicide to servitude, while others possibly murdered by abusive employers. This year Beirut is averaging twenty-seven deaths of foreign domestic servants by defenestration a month.”
Durg smirked. “News flash! Powerless people have no power. Film at eleven.”
Last week at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin took the podium to bask in her historic moment as the first female Vice Presidential nominee of the Republican party.
“Hillary left 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling. But the women of America are going to shatter that glass ceiling once and for all,” she said to thunderous applause.
Meanwhile, outside behind police barricades, Schikdkraut, weakened by her fast, was exhorting the hostile female delegates. “This isn’t about one women being nominated for cynical political reasons.”
A squad of St. Paul police in riot gear moved in.
“Better be cool,” Durg warned. “These are Republicans…”
But Schildkraut had gotten the attention of one grandmotherly type and was reading from the Republican platform.
“We support the advancement of women in the military… We promise to work with women considering abortion to enable and empower them to choose life. That’s it,” she said. “There is no recognition of the oppression of women in the developing world.”
“Because it’s not happening, dear,” the grandmother said.
Schildkraut handed her a clipping from the Financial Times. “Women in Afghanistan are burning themselves to death to avoid forced marriages or persecution by family members. Iranian movies advocate self-immolation as a way out…”
The grandmother shook her head. “You shouldn’t make up stories like that.”
“It’s in the newspaper,” Schildkraut said.
Something in her fierce gesture made the police think she was inciting a riot. They knocked over her table, threw her leaflets away. “On the ground,” a Sergeant shouted.
“You men are husbands, fathers,” Schildkraut pleaded.
“Don’t you feel any empathy…”
Her legs buckled.
A cop jerked her to her feet.
Durg rushed to her defense.
“Hey guys, be careful. She hasn’t eaten for nine days.”
A cop whacked him in the back of the knee with his metal baton and smashed him in the shoulder as he was going down.
As they were strapping Schildkraut onto a gurney a red-faced cop leaned down and shouted:
“When a crack whore slashed me with a broken bottle who was protecting my rights?”
Schildkraut closed her eyes, too weak to reply.