Baughman, Bhutto, and Me

  • Mar 9, 2012
  • eaintern

Thank you, Duane Baughman for changing my life. 

Sounds hyperbolic, but I mean it. Our short interaction was inspiring and I’ll carry that forward with me here. Your documentary film, “Bhutto” has given me an urgency and fearlessness that fuels my drive onward. 

I’ve always been politically active. I’ve always been an engaged voter. I’ve always worked on campaigns. But, up until that moment, I was content to be part of the chorus; never raising my voice singularly on an issue. Up until that moment, I was a behind-the-scenes person. I never wanted to be the person to step out on the ledge and take the risk.

How could I know that a couple of hours one lazy January afternoon could mean so much? Out of respect to a colleague, I accepted an invitation to attend Emerge Arizona’s fundraiser screening of Mr. Baughman’s documentary film “Bhutto.” The chance to meet a Sundance award-winning producer was added enticement.  I wasn’t prepared to leave transformed.

Within 10 days of seeing this documentary, I agreed to speak before a hostile senate committee and press conference, then applied for and was accepted into the Emerge Arizona program. Courage came easy when I reminded myself that I did not risk torture and imprisonment to exercise my rights to be heard. Since then, I have actively and identifiably spoken out on gun violence, Sheriff Arpaio’s ridiculous “birther” investigation, and the inequalities of health care in Arizona. 

 I like to think that I stay current on world events, so I thought I knew this story. Baughman’s powerful telling gives us the full depth of the life that was Benazir Bhutto. This film fulfills Baughman’s promise to tell us a modern-day Shakespearian tale. That it is true makes it so much more compelling. 

Benazir Bhutto experienced the execution of her father, the assassinations of both of her brothers, multiple imprisonments, a traditional arranged marriage, exile and several attempts on her life. She also eradicated polio in her country, improved the impoverished conditions of her citizens, faced down India, gave birth while in office (no other modern female leader has done this) and served as the youngest prime minister – the first woman prime minister of a Muslim nation. 

I’m no film critic. I do not have the skills to fully describe how Baughman deftly educates us on the history and culture of Pakistan while helping us understand the remarkable accomplishments and seeming pre-ordained destiny of Benazir Bhutto. Watching was almost overwhelming; there is so much information that this is a film that begs to be seen twice. 

I hope Emerge Arizona will show this film again. I urge each of you to see it. I promise, you will find your own “Bhutto moment” that will define your leadership. This should be “Must-Do” homework for each cohort.

 I had no idea that Benazir Bhutto was hand-picked by her father to follow him – over her brother. I had no idea that choice caused conflict still felt a generation later and that still reverberates internationally. I had no idea of the tightrope she walked as a woman of power in a society with such rigid definitions of femininity. Progressive enough that she was the first woman in her family to forego the traditional burqa yet constrained by tradition so that she never shook hands with men.

  As I write, a Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke, is playing out her own “Bhutto moment” as she is dragged through the mud by misogynist media for simply engaging in civil discourse. Calling women who speak out “whores,” questioning our moral standards or our “feminine abilities” has always been a weapon of choice to try to intimidate us to sit down and STFU. Until we have full parity, we will continue to pay a heavy price for our temerity to lead. 

We too must be fearless. We too must step breathlessly into the breach knowing there will be those ready to knock us back. We must find strength and peace in that inevitability; as Benazir Bhutto did. Then, as leaders, we must do what women have done for eons; create a livable, vibrant “now” whilst stewarding a better future.

Jennifer Longden
Emerge Arizona
Class of 2012