Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Courage of My Convictions

Someone I know recently wrote some rather derogatory remarks about bloggers in general. When I read his comments, I wrote a rather scathing response and reminded him that bloggers often speak for those who cannot. And many of those people do so at great risk to not only their own lives but also those of their families and friends.

Even as I hit send on that response I wondered if I was really the right person to be saying them. A few months ago, this blog was criticized for not being more politically active and vocal. At the time, I defended my editorial right to live in a country more than a handful of months before I passed judgment on its regime. But now more months have passed and still my pen is still silent.

When elections were held in Kenya in December, 2007, I used this blog to share my views and observations with the world. In the days, weeks, and months that followed I tried to be the eyes and ears of people on the other side of the world to tell them what was going on from my rather narrow point of view. I didn’t pretend to know even a fraction of what was truly happening to Kenyans on the ground but I tried to report the truth as I saw it and to turn people onto local Kenyan bloggers whom I knew were doing the same. My blog wasn’t as widely read or heralded as some but I tried to keep up the stream of information as best possible.

I have now successfully lived in Egypt for over six months without ever once telling the world what I thought (or didn’t think) about the government here. Due to the fact that Hubby and I are guests in the countries we have chosen to call home for the last four years, I have always made it a policy not to ruffle feathers with this blog. The story of Phillip Rizk shines a light on my personal cowardice.

Phillip is a graduate student at one of the local universities here in Cairo and during his spare time is a freelance journalist, filmmaker, and maintains a blog. In recent months he has written about his opinion of, among other things, the Egyptian government and its stance during the recent bombings of Palestine by Israel. For putting thoughts like these out into the ether of the Internet, Phillip was taken by the police during a peaceful protest in early February. This German-Egyptian man was later released from custody but not before his family home in Maadi had been searched.

The case of this and other bloggers being taken by officials in Egypt due to the content and views expressed on their blogs is the reason I find myself unable to comment on political issues while we continue to live here. While I may wish to rush to print such stories I know that my place here is as an observer. Perhaps when we leave I will feel more comfortable expressing any such views but until then I must respect not only my husband but also his employers here in Egypt.

My silence has been paid for. My convictions have been rocked. My belief in myself that I would always do what was right has been tested. And I have failed.

34 comments:

Mrs. D Lightful said...

I wouldn't say that you failed! If you are jeopardizing your husband's work and others, it is a very selfless thing you are doing to remain silent. Don't be hard on yourself! You are very decent to do what you are doing.

Lydia said...

No, no failure there. I have felt the same kind of fear. There was another "Philip Rizk" -like incident right after we got here 4 years ago. It scared me straight and have avoided commenting on current events. I've seen the Egyptian jail system. It is scary. Get political when you're well out of the reach of the bumbling local police just looking for a scapegoat.

egypt4 said...

I understand your reluctance to post on these issues, and I also understand your feelings of guilt about it.

Are we somehow complicit in our silence?

By the way, Philip has a new blog (my understanding is that his old one, along with all of his email, was hacked and stolen): http://tabulagaza.wordpress.com/

San said...

I always love reading your blog and your very heartfelt words. I think it is courageous of you to even write and admit this!

I never think it is easy for you to write something potential explosive, given your sensitive location and circumstances. We all have a balance to keep and a decision to make to have our priorities in tact. :)

Mojo said...

I think living in a country where speech is (reasonably well-) protected disqualifies me from comment here. If I had only myself to consider, I might take up the cry if I lived where you do. But with a family to consider... I'm not so sure I'd be so eager to play with fire.

Protege said...

I think it is up to you to chose the direction and the content of your blog posts.
Your writing is (at least to me) entertaining and reflective and I can not see how you could have failed.

Kathy B! said...

Nope. I don't see any failure around here. I've been looking around and found all sorts of good stuff, but I definitely didn't see any failure. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about things -- personally, legally, ehtically -- there are lots of rights and wrongs. Your time to write about these things is not right. And when it is you will, but not until then.

Heather said...

You definitley have not failed. I love your blog, I find it really interesting. I don't think anyone would want you to write anytihng that would put you, your husband, or his business associates in any kind of danger. Keep up the great work!

Linda said...

Frankly, ever since the new media bill was passed here in Kenya, I've not posted anything political. I don't know if I will in the future or not...

And I just deleted the rest of my comment because I feel like I got too specific about issues. Oy. It's a struggle.

Anonymous said...

Above all, as I said about your Kenyan blogs last year, always be safe. When the time is right--you will know.
merthyrmum

Brenda said...

Why do you NEED to blog about political issues? There are so many other interesting things to blog about.

I WANT to do some political blogs, but my family has asked me not to, and since I live in community, I respect that.

A blogger was just arrested in Venezuela as well. The American idea of freedom of speech truly does not exist, even in the USA, all of our words have consequences. Thats just how it is.

You have not failed, in my opinion, because I still enjoy your blog :)

Roxane said...

I see no failure! I love your blog and it doesn't need a political platform to make it interesting. I think that being brought up in Canada/USA, i've been told from an early age to speak my mind, it's a free country, we have freedom of speech! But in some situation we forget that silence is golden :)

Caution Flag said...

To have the voice and choose to not use it is brave. You are putting your family first. That takes courage, too :)

3 Bay B Chicks said...

It seems like I am in very good company when I say that you definitely have not failed. Look at all of the bloggers' lives you touch just by maintaining your site and reaching out to others through commenting. Although your blog may no be dripping with your political viewpoints and convictions, you have the audience you do because of the posts that you DO write.

Don't go changin', my friend. We like you just the way you are!

-Francesca

cripkitty said...

I think blogging, not unlike where you and I first met out here in the random cyberspace is open to everyone's definition of what they can and cannot do. I have written about some rather controversial issues due largely to my locale. But, there's true safety in my locale. Even after attacks in '01, I still regard my locale much safer than yours. I'm not tryin' to diss yours in anyway, I'm just saying. I think as travelers we need to take stock of where we are at and realize that "home for now" isn't the home that we once knew as a child and thereby we can't treat it as such. I don't think that everyone needs to be a missionary for whatever. I think you write about what fills you at the current moment. THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. It's like talking about politics on an alternative music channel. It happens because people aren't completely interested about music 100% of the time.

You can't hide who you are. You're keeping you and your family from being bothered. I don't think there's any failure in that at all.

Betty said...

I agree with the all the others. You have NOT failed!! You chose your family first and for me this is a matter of priority. I think if your blog were to become political I would stop coming...

Katherine Aucoin said...

I don't think of it as failure either. I agree with the other commentors that you were looking out for yours and your husband's best interests.

An American can very easily take for granted his freedoms and feel like no matter where he is he may have that same freedeom. It's hard to be silent sometimes,

DiPaola Momma said...

I'd have to echo Cripkitty. I hold very deep political, social and spiritual convictions. I've found myself plunging headlong into a cause and devoting my heart, soul, time, money and voice to it. That said though, blogging for me (at this point) is more of a fluff adventure into connecting with others on a level that keeps the tone less radical. One should never feel gulited into expressing their opinions or choosing not to. Travelers, like you and I, have a far better understanding of and I think respect for, those who do use a forum like blogging (or any other public outlet) to point out injustice and inequality. I fight my battles were I can, when I choose to and with all my heart... I imagine that is just as noble in it's own way.

As for your shopping comment on my FLUFFY mom-blog, I'd give up any number of my "super" deals to go to a great open air market in Ciaro, or back to my favorite ones in Morocco and Portugal!

NicoleB said...

Don't be too harsh on yourself.
You are in a country where it's no joke to speak your mind against the government.
It could backfire big time on you and your husband.
And not only that he could lose his job.
You know that.
Keep that in mind, keep the stories and publish them when you are out of there.
Hugs!

Debbie said...

No one should criticize you as they have no idea what your individual situation is. Let them have a political blog if they want. We like yours just the way it is:)

LadyFi said...

I say Pooh! to those who have voiced criticism... This is your blog and you can choose how you want to express yourself in it.

You don't have to write a blog to please others. There are lots of us who love your blog as it is!

psychoknitter said...

No WAY have you failed. You open up the eyes of a lot of people to a life in another country - you don't have to always harp on about the problems of local politics and human rights abuses, etc. I think that just by giving awareness to others that another place EXISTS you can by proxy encourage them to look more into the local situations, etc.

You do have to exerice common sense when you reside in a foreign country. THe only country I would lambast publically is my own. Thankfully I have been given the right by my gov't to do this (at least for now!). Most countries don't have this privilege....

Just keep on doin' what you are doin'!

Laural Out Loud said...

Choosing self-preservation under circumstances such as these is in no way akin to failure. Not every person is destined to the role of a civil rights leader- there are many other ways to contribute. Through your blog you are revealing a culture, layer by layer, that many of us don't understand. That goes a long way, too. The time will come when you can express your thoughts more thoroughly.

Wifey said...

You have totally NOT failed. I'm new to your blog, but I love it thus far! We all are here for different reasons; everyone's is not to be politically outspoken. Continue being you ...

Winks & Smiles,
Wifey

Juls said...

Thanks so much...!! When I told Hannah that someone who lives in Egypt watched her sing...she was like, NO WAY! ;-) Hope you have a lovely week!

Yaya said...

Wow.

First of all, I really try to keep politics out of my blog, just a personal thing.

Your blog is your blog, you *should* be able to write whatever you want, and if someone doesn't like it they don't have to read it.

I just don't understand why people leave rude comments. Don't understand it. That's why I have comment moderation...unfortunately.

AndreaLeigh said...

my first thought was of your safety. i wouldn't blog about politics as a foreigner either. i would be scared of the reprecussions and the impact it might have on your husband.

just like i wouldn't take it upon myself to blog about the super secret submarine world b/c it would negatively impact my husband, you know?

egypt4 said...

Wow, people are really willing to let you off the hook for this, aren't they? :)

I feel strongly that the personal is the political. And I do feel we need to obey laws of the country where we reside.

One thing I've done: link to articles in places like the NY Times, etc. You don't even have to say anything about it, but it does help get news to places it might not get otherwise.

That's not quite in the style of your blog, but you're a great writer--I'm sure you can think of some way to incorporate this stuff if you want to.

For the record, I'm now remembering I posted photos of the heavy police presence in Tahrir Square last spring. The police (in huge numbers, like the hundreds) were there to squelch a national strike. I do think it's important for us to help communicate how things are different here. Those photos, of masses of police in riot gear, said an awful lot.

NicoleB said...

While in Kuwait I posted a few newspaper articles about rape, murder, modern slavery.

But I really believe it is up to everyone himself to decide what to post or not.

Period.

Blond Duck said...

I don't think you've failed. I think you protected your family.

Jacki said...

I don't think you should feel bad about being silent in a country like Egypt! I have been reading in the paper lately about some of the violence against westerners there in Cairo and worry about you two anyways!

Veronica said...

Definitely not failure.
I often feel anguish if I watch a TV documentary shot "undercover" but exposing locals speaking out, who don't have the opportunity to escape if need be.
I fear for their safety after the cameras have gone.
You and your family's safety is paramount, and that is to be defended. Naivety is no defence.

karin said...

I'm the last one to comment I'm sure. Just catching up on my reading!! No failure here - you get an A+ for your blog. Everything on people, issues, and politics around the world we need or want to know, we can get through all kinds of media abundantly available to us on the internet, TV and in print. Each one of us is capable of forming our own opinion, but there is no need to use our blog to share our personal perspective on everything. You have received over 30 comments - I believe your fellow bloggers have spoken well!

Connie said...

You have not failed - you post what you want. Period.

I am of THREE minds about posting my political opinions.

1 - Egypt is tough on bloggers and all news. But shouldn't I feel free to say what I want anyway?

2 - Egypt has a tough situation, in general, to provide security for their country. So, shouldn't I accept the situation, and the need for tighter security than I would like elsewhere? Egypt is in a damned if you do, damned if you don't position... people complain when things are too strict, but if something happens, the state is condemned for not being tough enough.

3 - I am a guest, not a local. So, while I feel entitled to my opinions, how educated are they, really? Even after 4+ years?

In the end, I try to state my opinions about things in a "this is how it affects my living here as an expat" manner, because that's my business, that's what I do know, it's my angle on things. I'll let people go Google the news and read the details and opinions elsewhere.