Sunday, January 30, 2011

Biting Back. Egyptians and I.

I watch the turmoil in Egypt with a sense of fascination and with a heart beating with anticipation, fear, and hope. I watch those people taking their futures into their own hands and I realize that, for them (as for myself) a certain point had been reached when enough was ENOUGH!! People can sit on the sidelines and ask...what the hell took them so long, but for me that question is irrelevant. Time has no bearing on a person (or persons) in the depths of oppression. It just boils down to one day at a moment at a time...sometimes even your next breath seems questionable. What matters is that the moment has arrived, for whatever reasons, and Egyptians have decided that now is as good a time as any to find that strength they always had but had been taught through oppression that inner strength was best left in the dream world. Well, dreams are all nice and sweet (for the most part) but for them, as for me, it's time to wake up.

I haven't spoken on this blog much about the catalyst that brought about the moment in which I finally realized that enough was enough and I was ending this one way or another. As I watch the unfolding events in Egypt I can't help but look back on that night and for me it really hits home. I see in those people what I saw in myself...either do it now...or let the moment pass and sink into unremitting despair as you realize "this is it" and the rest of your life is just counting the moments until you die. For anyone that has been in that particular situation there are two deaths we can experience in life...permanent death of course is waiting for everyone...but the other death I speak of is more painful, more crushing, and infinitely more destructive then that eternal sleep in the earth. I'm referring to the death of your soul, of your intellect, of your sense of self. Those Egyptians, as I, have decided that they matter, they count, they have purpose and it isn't too grovel at the feet of an uncaring, inhumane dictator whose own self interests are the beginning and end of their existence.

I lived in the middle east for 23 years. Granted Bahrain is nowhere near the oppressive corrupt state that Egypt, or even Tunisia, is but it does have it's dictator and corrupt govt. It also has its prisons that people enter and never exit, without fair trials or even charges. People in Bahrain, like in most (all) Arab countries, disappear...and there isn't much anyone can do about it. Of course this fear of being one of the Disappeared keeps people in a permanent state of suspicion and distrust. It also effectively shuts your mouth as you know that to open it leaves you at the mercy of that corrupt dictator and govt and that to speak out can be the beginning of the end for you. Because of this I was constantly witness to a room full of people laughing, gossiping people having a good time...and then someone mentions the "unmentionable"..aka the King, or even worse, the Prime Minister..and suddenly there is a hush that silences the crowd as effectively as a conductor tapping for attention.

The suspense in the room is palatable. In that moment you wonder if that person will be foolish enough to say something negative (because you never know who the spy among you is) or do the usual ass kissing that all Bahraini's, dare I say all Arabs, do when in a crowded room when you never know where your words will end up? It is at this moment when voices are instantly lowered, tones are neutral, eyes are darting...and everyone waits.

Back in the late 80's when I first arrived in Bahrain this state of fear was more intense then it is now. I didn't understand it fully then because in America we are allowed to speak out, to protest, to accuse our govt. and president of being less than just etc. I actually found it rather humorous to watch a room full of people instantly hush when the King, or rather Sh. Isa (father to King Hamad) was mentioned...and the real fear that was felt when the Prime Minister (same one) was brought up. Now I understand it, of I sympathize with it because I too was in a relationship that forced me to bite my tongue to keep the peace, even when every fiber in my being cried out for me to speak SHOUT OUT that this was fucking wrong!!! I bit my tongue until it bled...until I could bite no more. And then rather than bite my own tongue one more time and risk choking...I "bit" him instead. To say he was surprised is an understatement.

The Egyptian people are biting back with tongues bloody from years, decades, of forced silence. I feel their pain. I taste their blood as if on my own tongue. A familiar taste I never ever got use too...but learned to live with at my own peril.
They are biting did the Tunisians...and the resulting wave of Arab people that are seemingly coming to the realization that they still have power, they still count...they still matter, is an amazing thing to witness.

Tunisians took the first bite...Egyptians saw that it tasted good to the Tunisians and bolstered by the smack of satisfaction resonating from the lips of the victorious Tunisians...have decided they would rather fight for their own futures with lips bloody from a Revolution...then choking from blood filled with fear, oppression, and loss of hope...loss of self.

On my own night in question, after one more battle in a long line of battles that stretched behind me for 20 years...and apparently stretched in front of me for 20 more...I saw my ex standing there, leaning against the wall, casually smoking a cigarette, with a look of complete and utter satisfaction on his face. He had me right where he wanted me. I wasn't going anywhere. His hand held the leash that was around my neck..and he knew it. In his world, all was good, all was as it should be. All was business as usual.

It was at this moment that something clicked in my head. I was almost convinced it was an audible sound it was so loud. I remember looking around to see if my kids (who had to witness that fight...and what was about to happen) had heard it. I looked at him standing there, not a care in the world, not in the least upset about the fight we just had, about the fact that our children had to witness once again him abusing their mother...and then turning around and giving them a lecture on what it means to "be" Muslim. His hypocrisy in their eyes registered not at all in his mind. Things were as they should they had always been...for 20 years.

If he only knew what was coming, what had been a long time coming, he might not have been quite so smug. Again, I can't help but think of Hosni Mubarak right now. Did he never once pause and think...I may have to pay for my oppression of the people some day. If not tomorrow...the day after? Eventually they might realize that when there is nothing left to lose...death is preferable to this life I have forced upon them.

Did that ever cross his mind? Obviously not because he never changed his did my husband. Promises made. Promises broken in almost the next breath. Every dictator on the planet knows that THEY don't have to change...they are God. The only thing that changes is the size of the oppressed belly as they force themselves to swallow more blood from those bloodied tongues.

So I stood there watching him....hearing that very LOUD click in my mind in which something very fundamental changed in me forever. I realized in that moment that THIS was my life...forever and always. Until either he died or I did (and knowing my luck it would be me first)...this was it. Unless I changed something about would always be the same...because he wasn't going to change of course. Life for him was good. Life for him was perfect. Life for him was about to change in ways he couldn't even fathom...

I turned and walked into my boy's room...searching for something. I didn't realize what I was looking for until I found it. A baseball bat. I bent over reaching for the handle and it was as if the world had slowed down to the point that every movement was a separate picture taken and viewed from outside myself. My hand grasped the long slender neck and with contact I felt a resolve settle into my heart that I thought impossible. Things were going to change...right HERE and right way or another.

I didn't really think about much right then. I can't tell you exactly what I WAS mind felt really blank to tell the truth...but at the same time it was abuzz with years of abuse...years of loneliness...Years of Tears. I came out of the boy's room and walked toward him...the bat trailing on the ground beside me. I wasn't even holding it in an aggressive manner I clearly remember. I'm not even sure at this moment what I intended to do with it. It felt good in my felt right. That was all that was important to me just then.

He turned his head and looked at me coming towards first that damn smug look was still on his face. He probably thought I was coming to make the peace as usual. A necessity when you knew life wasn't going to change and living with an uneasy peace was preferable to an all out war. I can clearly remember the very second when he realized things weren't as they should be. I can only surmise he read something in my face that he couldn't remember seeing before...that he didn't recognize...that he couldn't CONTROL. I'm guessing what he saw was the consequences of his years of abuse walking toward him...with a baseball bat in her hand.

To this day I wonder why he didn't just take the bat from me. He was bigger, stronger...there wouldn't have even been a struggle over it. He could have taken that bat from me and that would have been the end of my "Revolution" of sorts. He could have taken that bat and I would have been right back where I started...which was nowhere. Instead...he ran. There is only one thing a Predator does when the Prey runs...chases after it. For once in MY life...I was the predator and he was the prey. The ever present blood on my tongue from 20 years of biting suddenly felt different...tasted different. Rather than choking me it was urging me on...for once in my 20 year marriage that blood tasted GOOD.

And I wanted more.

I went after him...and the they history. Here I sit some 3 and a half years later with my freedom...with my children safe from him...with MY future in MY hands...and the blood on my tongue has all but dried up. The memory of it is not gone though. I keep it. Turn it over in my mind. Remind myself that I will never go back to that state of having to swallow my tongue to keep things easy for HIM.

Mubarak is looking out his window (if he dares go to any window just now) and is seeing something on the faces of HIS people. They are tasting a new sort of blood on their tongues. One that is unfamiliar but welcome all the same. He is standing there looking...and I'm quite positive he is thinking...what the hell is wrong with these people? Who do they think they are? How dare they assume their lives are worth anything more than what I choose to give them.

I know he is thinking this...because all dictators think that. All abusers think that. And the only thing that changes that that audible click in the mind of the oppressed...and the realization that either we lay down and die (our souls) or we bite down harder on our blood filled tongues and taste a new kind of blood. The blood of Revolution.

Run Mubarak...cause they are coming for you. And after the Egyptians have their day...I hope other oppressed countries feel emboldened to become Predator...when before all they knew was life as Prey.

My heart beats for you Egypt. My tears fall for you. My hope grows for you. My soul, once nearly dead, cheers for you. Stand fast and stand strong. 30 years of oppression and pain is about to's so damn worth it. You can't imagine how good Freedom taste.


.::Tuttie::. said...

you know looking back I had a similar moment. The moment when I confronted my abuser and they also ran. lol. Its easy to abuse someone like a child but they forget that, the child will one day grow up, be stronger, possible taller than them. I wonder if we all have that moment? the moment when you stop being a victim and move on to a survivor.

Deena said...

This is so well written and eye-opening, it should be pubished. Have you considered submitting it to a newspaper?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely outstanding comment Coolred. This deserves to be seen by more people. Like Deena says. Send this to the newspapers.
I love your comments always on other blogs too. I will use this for my case management talks on abused females if I may.
Go girl.

Anonymous said...

Well said Red.


Umm Omar said...

WOW, WOW, WOW! This is your best post yet! Thank you!!!

Jaz said...

Like! Great post!

jest dobrze said...

what oppressor needs is a victim. no victim- no oppressor, it's so simple. the very moment victim says 'no more' the oppressor loses his power -for good.
you are a wonderful human being :)

Anonymous said...

great thoughts ...

Angel Darling said...

It's amazing when one can read into the soul of an author... you speak from the heart, from the pain, from the experience and it shows loud and clear. Writing like that can only come from a very real place. Outstanding!

Anonymous said...

Just 1 Question My friend. When are you going to write your book????? Even perfectly good strangers see your abilities. Grab that baseball bat and go with it!!!

coolred38 said...

Tuttie...I would guess and say no, we dont all have those some people remain a victim all their lives. Long after the abuser is gone...but it is a certain mindset that sets in...and one has to really work to get past it. Thanks for the comment.

Deena..thank you. Not really. I tend to just write what Im feeling and let it go at that. Not sure who would want it or how to go about it anyhow. Thanks for the suggestion tho.

Anon#1...thank you. Use away. If anything I have been through in my life helps someone else in some way...then that is icing on the cake.

Betty...thank you.

Umm Omar...why thank you.

Jaz..thanks for the Like.

Jest...absolutely right. Unfortunately, while caught up in the abuse of victimhood..we dont always see the issue as being so cut and dried. Outside looking in and all that. Thank you.

Anon #2..thank you.

Angel..everyone's pain is real. That is one of the hardest thing for others to understand who haven't felt it for themselves. If I can express my pain in tangible words that make you feel...than I have accomplished what I set out to do. Thank you. clue. Working on it but suddenly I have no time at all..where as before time stretched out before me with no end in sight...oh how time as changed. LOL

jest dobrze said...

it's not easy for sure. just the pattern of it is easy to understand. getting out is difficult though. You are so brave :)
btw 'jest dobrze' means 'it's ok' in my language. and just like you I am no longer a victim :)

Harry Guggen said...


I just finished reading thru all your blog entries. You are one courageous IRON LADY!


Harry Guggen

Becky said...

All of your blog posts are so incredibly inspirational. I can really relate to this one, having just come out of an abusive (although not physically abusive) relationship. For me the moment came after I was once again sleeping on the floor, had been told that I was a stupid bitch and "try not to f*** the dog while I'm gone" then finding out he'd been cheating on me for the past 4 months. You really just do reach a point where you say to here, then no further. I've been amazed at the strength I've found within myself, and that most of all, I've felt free. People keep telling me that it's okay to be upset. But I'm not. I spend all my tears. I cried for hours almost every single day. I don't need to cry for him no more. Once again, thank you for such a brave and honest post.

Marahm said...

I love you how interwove your personal story--- the story of one woman--- with the story of Egypt--- an entire country, rising up after too many years of abuse. The dynamic is the same, whether it be for one woman or an entire country.

I look forward to the day Egypt is as free as you are now.

Deena said...

The vast majority of America does not understand the uprisings in repressed countries like Egypt - Why didn't they do it sooner? What gives them the courage now? Where did it (seemingly) come from all of a sudden, out of nowhere? I think there's a real parallel to the situation in Egypt and the situation you - and so many others who've lived through domestic violence (myself included)- have gone through. People can relate to the situation on a personal level.

Your writing is so clear, I believe it could really help Americans understand the situation in Egypt a little better - even if it only effects 1 person. Reading your story, interwoven with that of the repression of the people in countries like Egypt truly made me personally understand the situation better.

Not to beat a dead horse, but that was my reason for suggesting you find a way to publish this (editing out some of the more sensative details of your story, of course). To submit it to a newspaper, I believe you would just need to email it to the editors of various newspapers and ask for it to be included in the editorial/Op.Ed. pages. Though I also understand why you may not want to.

Thank you for opening my eyes and helping me to understand.

Becky said...

I agree with Deena that this post is a very powerful way to explain and make sense of both the uprising in Egypt and of domestic violence. A lot of people could learn from it.

Helene said...

Hello Coolred,
Thank you for this, I too benefited from reading it, as others have.

Would you consider writing sometime about what attracted you to your former husband, and what enabled you to sustain an enduring relationship with him? (I understand the complexity that unfolds when children enter the picture.)

Thank you again.

Queen O'Danile said...

Wonderfully moving post. I am so happy that you overcame, and praying we here in Egypt can overcome as well. Thanks for the inspiration!

coolred38 said...

jest..that is fantastic. Thank you for sharing that with us.

Harry....well thank you but not sure Im an Iron Lady...but I have learned that I can be tough when I need to be...and that was the first step to realizing I had a future and it belonged to me.

Becky...been there done that so I know where your coming from. Im glad you got out before too much of your life was wasted on a pice of shit that didnt deserve you. The first step is the hardest...

Marahm...thank you and I look forward to that day too. The middle east gets a bad rap...all the Arabs rolled up into one big entity...meanwhile for most of them...they have no say over their lives. Maybe the world will listen to the Arab voice that isn't prgrammed by the media first.

Helene...thank you and I have actually written about meeting my husband and what happened from there. Its under my life as a muslim tags..and similar tags. I could link..but I have such a hard time with that...Im link deficient.

Queen...we are all holding our breaths and praying now.

Jayne said...

I really like the way you've intertwined the 2 stories & agree with what everyone else has said - you really should consider at least getting this particular post published in a national newspaper.

This really is one of your finest posts - well done hon :-)

Helene said...

Thank you Coolred. I followed up on the label you suggested, and have already read quite a bit of your story.

(The story about the dog-once I got an inkling about what was to happen, I had to skip over the whole thing, it was just too painful.)

I could really relate to your description of your "marriage proposal."

Due to certain aspects of my upbringing, I seem to have never been able to say no. When something is put in front of me, I feel like I HAVE to do it, no matter what it does to my life. My happiness doesn't matter, my personal wishes don't exist, I HAVE to do it. There is no way to make sense of the fact that it doesn't make sense. If there is no self, then there is no sense to be made, right?

As I think back on many episodes in my life, I realize that I could have deflated the whole thing with 2 words; "no thanks", and then just walk away.

I do that now, and I do it without anger. It is never too late to do what's right.

Anonymous said...


that was really, really good. You're very articulate, and just as I have been biting my nails for the last three weeks over the news, I've been hanging on the edge of my seat the last few minutes, reading this post.

Well done, and thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Et Tu Bahrain?

Sand Gets in My Eyes said...

Fifteen years later, my moment resurfaced after reading this great post. Its a powerful connection you made here, and, as others have said, deserves a wider audience.