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From friend to neighbor, sent from far away

by on September 27, 2011

An incredibly prescient letter to those seeking freedom in the Middle East was written a few months ago. In terms of news, it is quite old, but in terms of aspiration and inspiration it is quite up to date.

I am an Israeli-born American citizen. And I can tell you (and I am sure you already know) that in Israel and America and much of the world your revolutions have stirred up mixed emotions.

Some among us tell us to fear what is happening. They tell us that by tearing down the old regimes in your nations you have opened the door to a takeover by militants who would support violence toward us. They point to every incident of violence or expression of anger toward us as evidence of a threat.

I write this letter because I need you to know that I don’t share their fear. I don’t pretend to know what will happen in your countries. But I do know that when I see what you are doing on the streets of Cairo and Tunis and Tehran and Damascus, fear is not what I feel. Instead, I feel admiration. For your courage, for your dignity, for your audacity.

I am not naïve. I know some among your countrymen may truly hate Israel and America and the West. But I refuse to assume you share that feeling, or that you will be fooled by efforts to distract your revolutions with appeals to old hatreds. The tyrants who have ruled your nations and the would-be dictators seeking to hijack your movements will certainly try to redirect anger toward Israel, America and the West as a path to gain power. But if, as you say and I believe, you truly took to the streets to bring dignity to your own lives, I am confident you won’t be swayed from that goal by tired rhetoric and false threats.

I have this confidence because when I watch your revolution, I don’t see an enemy. You look like someone I would meet in a café or a conference or a classroom. Like someone I would start a business with or approach as a customer. Someone I could find on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

We have the choice to fear those who desire a better world. They’re called, derogatorily, ‘progressives,’ ‘protesters,’ and ‘activists.’ But I’ll join this American-Israeli Jew, a citizen of the world, in saying that “I want you to know that me, and many more like me, are inspired by what you are doing. We are going to stand beside you. We will continue to support you through what will surely be a long struggle to build a future for yourselves and your countrymen that is based on freedom, democracy, human dignity and peace.”

If we choose to fear these people, we fear that which is best within ourselves.   I would rather “acknowledge what we have in common and start trying to work together, rather than focusing on ancient grudges, preconceived notions and a history that serves no one but those who want to control our lives.”  That’s not an easy task; if it was, our problems would have long ago been solved.  But that’s no reason to delay.  It’s no reason to lose hope.

Progress, that dreaded thing desired by progressives, does not occur without action.  That action need not be violent or rebellious, yet I see some hints of desire for change in saying “we know the fundamental truth of our moment is that it falls to us to clean up messes left to us by preceding generations.”  We must now rebuild, and build the world we want to see, a world that is fair for everyone and gives everyone the chances they both need and deserve.

From → On the Dole

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