For the past several weeks, I’ve been writing a post about the uprisings in the Middle East. Or more accurately, I started writing a post about the Middle East several weeks ago and have been so stuck that I haven’t posted much of anything to this blog. My original motivation was to compare the outcomes of the largely nonviolent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the armed revolution in Libya.
Today, I tried again to force myself to finish the post, and couldn’t do it. Why do I have such an aversion to write about this topic? It occurs to me that my dread of the vitriolic attacks that would come my way outweighs my desire to add to the public discourse. Matin Luther King, Jr. famously said that nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. There are times in my life when I’ve had the courage to publicly agitate for peace and nonviolence, and there are times, like now, when the thought of absorbing the inevitable anger that would be directed at me causes me to back down.
When I think about going out on a limb and advocating for nonviolence, memories surface that rekindle disturbing feelings. Of course, I was used to being spat at and being called a supporter of terrorists before the U.S. public decided that the Iraq war wasn’t such a good idea. But even the death threat I received from someone who worked at the local newspaper when I sent in an announcement of a peace rally doesn’t compare to the emotional impact of being repeatedly yelled at through email. That’s why I haven’t been able to complete my post on the Middle East – the thought of angry comments reminds me of the emails I used to get when I made and sold peace flags on line. It was at the start of the invasion of Iraq and I noticed a lack of good peace flags and decided to make some myself and distribute them to activists on line. After the first few hate messages, I would shutter to open my email; each angry message felt like a blow to my heart. I would very carefully craft conciliatory messages to send back, hoping to soften opinions, but the cumulative effect was to stop me from selling flags. And now, echoes of those emails have stopped me from writing and essay about nonviolent resistance to authoritarian regimes.
So that’s why I haven’t beep posting much these days. But having thought all of this, I already feel a sense of relief and hopefully I’ll be posting more ramblings more often. I may not have the full-time courage required for a life of nonviolence, but I know that sooner or later I’ll be back out in the streets being screamed at and accused of supporting whoever the next official enemy is.