The New York Times this weekend told the story of Dr. Hawa Abdi, a Somali physician who runs a clinic, a school and a food program that support tens of thousands of Somali people who live without a functioning government.

Dr. Abdi’s compound was attacked by a militia, made up mostly of teenage boys, and she was held at gunpoint—until, as the Times writer put it, something surprising happened. Seeing their doctor and their beloved hospital under siege, Dr. Abdi’s community rose up. Hundreds of women turned out to protest, and the community condemnation forced the militia to back down—and even write a written apology to Dr. Abdi.

On the anniversary of the Haiti earthquake—it’s hard not to think about how we turn up, or not, for the ones we love. A year on,  that country is still mostly in ruins. And you can hear the frustration from the correspondent who’s kept GRITtv up to date with regular reports—Haitian American activist Dr. Marie St. Cyr.

St. Cyr tells stories too, of what is getting done in Haiti, off camera, mostly out of public view. Women, mostly, have come together to respond to assaults on each other and their families.  And with the help of some key international groups, they have pushed the very same government that Oxfam called "in paralysis" into gear such that it’s possible, just possible that a new health clinic for survivors will be announced this year.

If Haitians and Somalis, people with what most of us would call nothing, can take a stand and protect what they hold dear. How about us? Human services? Public workers? Budgets for schools, for libraries, for public media?  In Arizona, immigrants’ rights activist Salvador Reza told GRITtv immigrants are used to responding to violence with community. In the wake of the shooting that left congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords wounded and six others dead, the rest of the country seems still to be struggling with that.

Dr. King described our options: chaos or community. Both are clearly on display today. Like the Somalis and the Haitians, we have a choice: militarization or care?

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at and Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on Facebook.

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