by Shannon Williams
There’s nothing like a protest—especially a peaceful one. I’ve always admired people who are able to stand up for what they believe. As simple as this may seem, it can actually be a very hard thing to do. For some, the risks can be too great to—well, risk it.
Nonetheless, throughout many parts of the world, people are standing up for their beliefs in a form of activism and determination that we have not seen in awhile.
I wonder if that Tunisian man who sparked a revolution last December by setting himself on fire and eventually dying knew the impact his protest made—not only in his country, but across the world.
While I’m not suggesting that anyone go kill himself to make a point, I am saying that sometimes when you stand up for what you believe, even if you sacrifice a great deal, something good and positive can be the result.
After the Tunisian man’s death, his fellow countrymen sparked a movement that resulted in their longtime president stepping aside.
The following month, Egyptians followed suit, tirelessly protesting government corruption. Eventually, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak stepped aside.
With Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine Ben Ali essentially being forced out of control, increased momentum resonated across the world. It was as if everyone who has ever felt slighted or oppressed said, “Hey, if they can do it, so can I.”
Now it’s Libya’s turn. Protesters are opposing the rule of its leader Moammar Gadhafi. This protest, however, is significantly more volatile than those in other countries. At Recorder press time, there were at least 300 confirmed fatalities. Other reports hinted at 1,000 deaths during Libya’s crackdown. Another difference in the Libyan conflict is Gadhafi himself. He has declared war on his own people. During a highly animated speech, Gadhafi instructed his supporters to “get out of your homes and fill the streets. Leave your homes and attack (the protesters) in their lairs.” The embattled leader also showed his defiance when he vowed to fight to his “last drop of blood.”
Anti-government protests are under way elsewhere in the Middle Eastern region.
In Yemen, pro-government groups are fighting pro-reform protesters who are trying to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh. And in Bahrain, reform-seeking demonstrators also are in full effect.
In our own country, there are protests as well. Wisconsin and Indiana Democrats have fled their respective states in opposition to anti-union proposals Republicans want to pass. (A side note: everyone seems to make such a big deal about the Democrats walking out, but I distinctly remember instances in recent years when House Republicans pulled the exact same disappearing act. Everyone has his right to advocate for whatever he or she likes. You can’t criticize the technique if you have used that same method previously.)
People around the world are seeing that change can occur as long as you stand up for what you believe. These various protests that have been sweeping the Middle East and those in our own back yard demonstrate activism.
As Black History Month comes to an end, I’ve found myself comparing the government opposition we’ve witnessed over the past few months to the opposition that Blacks felt for so many years. Just as those in other parts of the world are protesting for aspects of the government, so, too, did those during the civil rights movement. It was a tumultuous time and resulted in the death of countless people and the ever-lasting pain and suffering of millions of others. However, eventually, things improved. They improved because of the advocacy of others. Can you imagine how different this country would be if the Civil Rights Movement never occurred? I shudder to think.
I end this editorial with one of my favorite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quotes: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
I’m sure the people in Tunisia, Egypt and South Sudan didn’t know for sure how things would end, but they probably had the faith to believe that something positive would come out of it. To those who are still in the struggle: remain steadfast in your beliefs and keep the faith. The end will more than likely justify the means.
(You can e-mail comments to Shannon Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.)