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 time...one 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 course...now 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 out...NO...to 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 back....as 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 be...as 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 ways...as 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 ME....it 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 NOW...one way or another.
I didn't really think about much right then. I can't tell you exactly what I WAS thinking...my 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 hand...it felt right. That was all that was important to me just then.
He turned his head and looked at me coming towards him...at 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 rest..as they say...is 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 mindset...is 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 end...it's so damn worth it. You can't imagine how good Freedom taste.