Ten years ago, I remember sitting in my office in America, going about my day, and not recognizing the importance of the events taking place on the other side of the globe. I was a foreigner, witnessing multiple uprisings and protest movements happening in Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain, of what later would be referred to as “The Arab Spring.” One of my colleagues, of Egyptian heritage, understood the scenes unfolding before us all too well, saying, “The wall of fear has crumbled, and the people have spoken.”
But what happened yesterday was not in the name of increased democracy or cultural freedom, as it was for The Arab Spring. Far from it. Yesterday, a Republican faction, plied by the lies from our current President Donald Trump and egged on to commit violence based on this misinformation, stormed the US Capitol. In America, we have democracy. We have freedom. People cling to these notions as things we need to protect and uphold, but in America today, the freedom cry is used to ignore the very tenets of democracy and to oppress disenfranchised groups in order to push a hateful agenda. Freedom is not freedom when it is selective, applying only to certain groups. Democracy means the majority has spoken, period. It is a poignant reminder of the instability and fragility of this nation. This time, someone else on the other side of the world is left with an indelible image of America, the so-called great First-world country in its most fraught moment since the Civil War. Suddenly, unrest is not so far away; it is very much closer to home.
US President-elect Joe Biden may have promised a return to normalcy, but the truth is that there is no going back to how we had been living pre-2020. We don’t want to. We are all in shock. This is my public response, after four years of Republican complicity in the face of Trump’s erosion of US democracy. I sincerely hope that after yesterday, we are more clear-headed than ever. Hate cannot be tolerated any longer. It is not freedom if it is not freedom for all. We have a long road ahead of us. But if we are able to finally wake up and see the damage that has been done over the last four years, we can begin to heal.
The wall of fear has indeed crumbled and the people – you, me, us – have spoken. Thank you to President-elect Joe Biden for condemning the actions that “do not reflect a true America”. We are one week into 2021 – let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past. The world is changing in fundamental ways, and the actions we take in the coming years will be critical to lay the groundwork for a more safe, sustainable, secure, equal, and more prosperous future.
Photography by: Getty Images