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August 30, 2005

Cross-cultural celebration

While our own culture may be heading south, I think we can all try to appreciate the good in other cultures as we read about them in the Washington Times. I mean, how can you not continue after reading this opening paragraph:

LUDZIDZINI ROYAL VILLAGE, Swaziland -- Fifty thousand bare-breasted virgins danced for the king of Swaziland yesterday, vying to become his 13th wife.
The second paragraph's pretty interesting, too.
King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, arrived dressed in a leopard-skin loincloth to watch the ceremony called the Reed Dance, which he has used since 1999 to pluck brides from the ranks of girls dressed in little more than beaded miniskirts.
A leopard-skin loincloth? Cool! All my loincloths come in solid colors in synthetics. So what could have led these girls to desport themselves so? Cherchez le lifestyle.
Wielding machetes and singing tributes to the king and queen mother, called "the Great She-Elephant," the girls danced around the royal stadium in the hope of catching the eye of the 37-year-old monarch. "I want to live a nice life, have money, be rich, have a BMW and cell phone," said one of them, 16-year-old Zodwa Mamba, who wore a traditional brightly colored tasseled scarf and not a lot else.
But it seems there are a few sore sports in Swaziland.
The ceremony yesterday was the culmination of a week of preparations, which included the lifting of a royal ban on sexual relations with virgins, decreed in 2001 to rein in the spread of the HIV virus.

Days after reviving the ancient ban, King Mswati in 2001 married a virgin and fined himself one cow. Last week, he lifted the five-year ban a year early, ordering thousands of maidens to throw off chastity scarves worn to discourage the attention of scamps and libertines.

"The Reed Dance has been abused for one man's personal satisfaction," says Mario Masuku, leader of the banned opposition party. "The king has a passion for young women and opulence."
Poor man. He hasn't come to accept the inherent validity of his own culture.