There are somethings that get older with time. As the seasons change and the months pass by, certain things seem to grow grizzled and some even begin to exude the ineffable glow of experience. Other things—well, there are just somethings that seem to have always been old. Those things are called history books. Growing up, the first day of school meant many things: a backpack that didn’t smell like glue, new clothes that just had to look just like the ones everyone else was wearing, and the painfully horrible “first day of school” haircut. But somewhere in between being greeted by the smiles of new friends and joking about how the familiar smiles of old friends were missing teeth, you would get your books. The teacher would always call out our names and she was passing out the “new” books, but there was always one book that got saved for last—the history book. It was the biggest, heaviest, and dustiest book of them all, and no teacher trusted their employee benefits package enough to risk trying to carry around a stack of heavy history books.
In spite of her less than lively appearance and struggles with her weight, history was my first love (and only love–my mum reads this). It was my favorite subject. The beautiful thing about history books was that they were always the same. They had the standardized hard cover complete with weathered corners where the brown cardboard was sneaking out and wrinkly binding where the book just barely managed to stay together. Once you flipped open the cover, it read in huge letters “THIS BOOK BELONGS TO ________”with the classic “Issued” and “Returned” boxes sitting right underneath. Somehow, year after year, reading how someone marked that they received the book as “old” and then returned it as “new” was still enough to make you smile. But the thing that you could never forget about this book was how heavy it was. I’m still convinced there was kind of trapdoor between Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 where they hid bricks or something—maybe three quarters of the way through if you catch my drift. Having to carry that book home was probably the toughest part of that class, but I loved every second of it for one reason. It had the best stories. They were about people: what happened to people, where people went, how people changed. As other kids would stare into space, I would jump into a whole new world filled with stories of unbelievable plots with unworldly characters. Movies and cartoons were cool, but History was real. That just made it so much more exciting.
This stuff had actually happened. Some Middle Eastern dude named Hammurabi was one of the first guys to ever write down what the laws where. Some guys on a boat used to lose sleep over the fear of falling off the edge of the world. Those same guys landed in the Bahamas and found the new world, a world where Hammurabi’s code would grow and evolve into democracy and freedom. The application of faces and personalities to a constantly progressing time-lines was “fun.” Being able to learn how short, simple stories were woven into the fabric of humanity was “cool.” Basically, I was a weird kid.
That was just it though, I was just a kid. I was just a pint sized person with an innocent looking face, pretty much looking like a tanned version of Taylor Swift.In fact, I’m pretty sure Taylor Swift was talking about the same kind of experience reading history books she said, “I closed my eyes and the flashback started.” For me, it was like I was standing there watching the story unfold. And, just like Taylor, I’d ask if this was for real or just a fairy tale? I’d ask because it felt so real, reading about revolutions, learning about famines, hearing about wars and politics. It was entertaining. It was like listening to a song or watching a movie. I was so into it, but the one thing I knew was that I didn’t want my “Romeo”to do was to “say yes.”I didn’t want for the hatred to be real. I didn’t want the oppression to be real. I didn’t want the murders to be real.
But, it was. And, it is. During the last few weeks, we have lived through a period where enough blood has been shed to author entire volumes of textbooks. We have lived through period where Tunisia, a nation with less inhabitants than some American cities, has sparked perhaps the greatest international political movement of our lifetimes.We have lived through a period were hundreds of thousands of ordinary of people have marched through the streets of Egypt. We have lived through a period where hundreds upon hundreds have been massacred in Libya. We have lived through a period were scores and scores of tweets have come from the countless men, women, and children making their voices heard in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, Kuwait, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Syria. That’s seventeen nations. That’s seventeen populaces standing up for justice, for freedom, for respect. As individuals, we often find that we can’t realize the magnitude of this period. We can not comprehend what it means for hundreds of thousands to join together, to leave their homes, and make real change.
But, there are some things we can understand. On the 11th of February, Hosni Mubarak stepped down as the President of Egpyt. That same afternoon, I watched another Egyptian man rise up. This man was someone I had seen around a few times but I knew little about. Much like the deposed dictator, he was elderly. Similarly, he spoke English with an Arab accent. And, that was all I knew about this gentlemen. But this man, he watched as the entire community was gathered, and he listened to his friends and neighbors speak. Slowly, as we all begin to disperse, he began walking to the front. And as he walked, his every movement drew in a growing number of eyes all affixed on this simple man. Like a mother chasing a child, he seemed to move not because he had decided to, but because he simply had to. With the galvanized pace of someone holding back uncontrollable emotion, he reached the front, only to stand there silently as he almost seemed to need a moment to collect himself. Announcing his words slowly to give us all an opportunity to digest the emotion pushing out each of his words, he shared with us, “This is the happiest day of my life!” At the brink of tears, he explained that he had spent his entire life waiting for this—a life spent traveling across the world, pursuing various degrees, advancing through many positions. And, he had been waiting for this moment—for freedom.
For many of us, we were born with freedom. We were born in lands where liberty, justice, and equality where not only expected, but taken for granted. Blindly, we became immune to pain of struggle and change. Change managed to turn into a campaign slogan while struggle became a historical concept. However, lately, we have come to understand how connected the truly world is through instant news updates, live video coverage, and, of course, social networks. We have followed young Egyptians on Twitter as they share with us their day to day situations, and we have watched videos of our favorite news anchor visiting far away lands on YouTube. We have watched as the happenings of Northern African and the Middle East have been brought to us. We have been connected. However, what have failed to realize is that connections work both ways. As connected as they are to us, we are equally as connected to them. While seeing status updates and tweets coming in from around the world, how many of us have responded with comments of encouragement or tweeted back our support? How many of us have written to our leaders asking them to actually do something to promotoe the principals of human rights and tales of freedom we hear them talking about? How many of us have actually showed our solidarity with those suffering or even had a conversation about what is going on? Or, is watching it on TV and reading about it on your phone enough? We are a point where we often find ourselves disconnected from reality. Peoples lives becomes numbers. Peoples struggles become stories. At times like these, we need to step back and realize that these are real people with real lifes. They grew up with families, went to schools, and even had dreams and aspirations no different from any of us. And when we hear about another life being taken away by those who’s vision is blinded by the facade of wealth and power, we must realize that life was worth no less than the lives of our friends, our neighbors, our selfs. Only once we realize that the wrongful taking of one life is akin to taking the life of all, we will begin to come together. Only then will we have the right to call ourselves supporters of freedom, of liberty, of justice, and, most importantly, of humanity.
As we are watching history unfold, hiding in the comfortable shade of ignorance is no worse than being on the wrong side. Theworld these people have been living in is one many of us would struggle to imagine, and the sacrifices they are have made are for one reason only—the right to live. As they continue to struggle for the right to live in countries where they will be treated with justice, they have asked for something simple: our support. Throughout the world, various groups and organizations are organizing demonstrations to show solidarity. Attend them. Throughout the internet, discussions are occurring and news is being shared. Be part of it. Throughout our communities, people are beginning to see that change is possible, growth is realistic, and faith is undefeatable. Live it.
Peop1e was founded on the premise that there are certain things where we all can come together and believe in. This is an opportunity for us to do this not only by buying shirts or reposting blogposts, but by banding together with our brothers and sisters throughout the world as we all take a collective stand against oppression. As we end this month celebrating the success of those who fought for freedom in our very nation, it seems fitting to reflect on the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Those words remind us that regardless of where these injustices are taking place, regardless of who they are affecting, regardless of who we are, we have a responsibility to stand up for those who are fighting for what we take for granted. When the youth of tomorrow study about the stories of today in their own history books, we will be asked a simple question: Do you remember what happened? Where were you? We get to decide how we will answer that question today. We get todecide if we want to recount a story of sitting comfortably under the shade of ignorance and indifference or if we want to be able to share with them our part in this struggle for justice.
As always, we are extremely grateful for your comments! We want to hear what you think. Like? Dislike? Please share your thoughts below…