OPINION: Pakistan Should Lead International Boycott Against U.S. Schools

One of the students killed during the shooting at Santa Fe High School Friday was Pakistani exchange student Sabika Sheikh.

She was set to return to her family in Pakistan after the end of the school year in June.

Hers was the first funeral of those murdered in the shooting.

In the United States of America, school shootings are run-of-the-mill events that are routinely fed through the media pipeline but are never addressed.

These days, so many children are dying at school that there have been images that have gone viral on the internet of children whose parents bought them bulletproof backpacks and vests.

I met one of these children at my town’s #MarchForOurLives event — her mom bought her the vest after her school went on lockdown in response to a threat written on the bathroom wall.

Our children are wearing military grade protective gear to go to school.

And, per usual, women and girls are at a disproportionate risk of being the targets of these horrific events — Santa Fe is at least the second school shooting potentially rooted in romantic rejection.

Our children are wearing military grade protective gear to go to school in large part because our sons can’t take “no” for an answer.

In March, Jaelynn Willey was shot in the head at Great Mills High School in Maryland in a school hallway for ending her relationship with 17-year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins.

Her injuries left her brain dead and her family made the heartbreaking decision to take her off life support. She was 16.

In 2015, nine people died at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon because a man had lived to the age of 26 without having had engaged in sexual activities and felt that he needed to punish the world for that injustice.

In 2014, six people died in Isla Vista, California — a college community — because a 22-year-old man couldn’t understand why women weren’t attracted to him and carried out his vow to punish them for it.

In 2009, a 48-year-old man killed three women at a fitness center in Pennsylvania because he was upset that younger women wouldn’t date him.

This is a cultural problem.

While violence against women in the U.S. is frequently masked by the overwhelming backdrop of gun violence in general, our country’s “style” of violence is no less insidious than the acid attacks, gang rapes, and burnings of women that take place abroad and that our society condemns.

United States pop culture has long enshrined the male archetype that disregards rule and law and uses violence and force to get want he wants.

We see it in everything from John Wayne cowboy movies to Dirty Harry cop movies to weird, manipulative romances like Overboard, 50 Shades of Grey, and The Great Gatsby.

The violence, of course, varies from genre to genre and can be more subtle in some than in others, but none is more or less problematic or toxic than another.

Sabika Sheikh died on Friday because 16-year-old Shana Fisher had repeatedly denied the aggressive advances of the Santa Fe High School shooter.

Sabika and Shana died because of another man who felt entitled to another woman’s time, attention, affection, and to her body.

Despite the violence towards women abroad, it is clear that the United States is no safer a place for the world’s daughters.

Until gun violence, violence towards women, and school shootings in particular are forcefully addressed by our government through effective legislation and until our nation begins to make strides in addressing our culture of toxic masculinity and misogyny, the world would do well to refrain from sending their children — the flower of their countries’ youth — to die in American schools.

Though Sheikh’s family has expressed no ill-will towards the U.S. for their daughter’s murder, the government of Pakistan is in a unique position to force the U.S. to face up to its crimes of neglect when it comes to the issue of gun violence in our country.

Pakistan could, and in my opinion should, issue an international call for a boycott of U.S. school exchange programs until the U.S. government can quantifiably prove that it is taking effective and proactive steps towards eliminating its unique gun violence epidemic.

Americans have marched. We have protested. We have died.

It is clear that our government does not see any of those things as sufficient cause to act.

Perhaps if the entire international community were to voice its unwillingness to endanger their own children’s lives by placing them in U.S. schools, our government just might be pressured to act.

Knowing our president, however, it would take the refusal of countries like Sweden to send their students here for him to even potentially care.

Nevertheless, even if a boycott of U.S. school exchange programs doesn’t register on the president’s radar, at least innocent students like Sabika won’t die at the hands of American murderers.


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