Growing up as a child of the 60’s I heard a lot about the civil rights movement, and particularly about those that had paid a high price for my ability to vote and be a free man. I’m a little more sensitive to that now, having a son who volunteered to protect our borders in the Armed Forces. I think that’s why I was so intrigued by the activity in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Still am. Seemingly ordinary people are coming out in droves, demanding changes in the government, looking for a better life for them and their posterity. The activity in Egypt was awe inspiring. This was not a military coup, didn’t result in half the nation being destroyed, and was not started by a foreign power for its own selfish reasons. It was local people who wanted a better life, more control over their lives, and to not be taken advantage of anymore. All of this excited me, for it brought back the struggle of my own cultural ancestors and their success in achieving freedom by peaceful protest. It wasn’t easy then, and would not be easy for Egypt, or any of the other countries going through the struggle, but when that freedom came, oh what a difference it would make. It was totally worth it, and always will be.
Something happened during the protest that I still have trouble articulating my feelings around. In short, I am bugged. Disturbed. Angry. All that and more. I am referring to the attack and rape of news correspondent, Lara Logan. Now, for some, this is old news. Some have no idea what I am talking about. Some may have dismissed this as the natural byproduct of protest. I cannot do that though, because this is not just about people going nuts. This is about freedom.
For those of you still in the dark about this, Lara was on the scene in Egypt, reporting on the progress the protesters were making. One moment she was doing her job shoulder to shoulder with the protesters. The next, she was separated from her crew, and brutally attacked and raped. What’s more, this happened on the day that Mubarak stepped down. The day Egypt won their freedom, there were some that took the freedom away from someone else. The day that respect was given to the people, a group of men stole the respect of an innocent bystander. If it were not for a group of women who, along with some soldiers stood up to the attackers, there’s no telling what would have happend to Lara. For me this will always be a stain on the otherwise successful quest of a better life for a people group.
Now you might be thinking, “Ken, this happens. Lara is moving on. You need to also”. I wonder what those who were sitting outside of the group watching this happen were thinking… “Wow, there are too many guys. I can’t do anything” or “this is happening too fast. I can’t think of what to do”? Were they too busy celebrating their own freedom to see that Lara was being robbed of hers?
This also makes me wonder how many times I live in the selfishness of my own freedom, ignoring those around me that are having their freedom, their personhood robbed from them. I couldn’t sit back any longer. I had to speak up, at the very least. I knew, though, that in speaking up I would not be relieved of my feelings about this.
Emma Lazarus penned the phrase, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free”. I think that one of the things we like about other people’s freedom is that it brings us a little closer to our own full freedom. For Egypt, they could not be fully free until they recognized that Lara’s freedom – freedom to be, to live, to experience life – was just as important as their own struggle. Maybe that’s what continues to bug me… that I can’t be free until Lara is.
Now, Lara is not being held in Egypt, against her will or anything like that, but if we are willing to look at it, there are “Lara’s” all around us. People being deprived of the ability to be who they are, of living with dignity, of experiencing a life devoid of fear. How can we sit back in our freedom, knowing that they are in close proximity, and their freedom is slipping away?
So, I’m starting by speaking up. I’m keeping my eyes open, and I’m making the decision to not just consider my own freedom anymore. Starting this blog actually came as a result of this incident. I can no longer be part of the normal crowd when other’s freedoms are being threatend. My freedom is nothing if it is not tied to the efforts not only of those who have gone before me, but of those who currently rub shoulders with me.
I don’t know what else will come from this. I’m hoping that this will inspire, especially men, to stand up against such atrocities, and I’m not just speaking of physical or sexual rape. They can be rapes against our self esteem, against our dreams, against our personhood. But not only men – all of us need to be willing to lay the groundwork for freedom of all people.
“Until we are all free, we are none of us free”…