Saturday, February 26, 2011

The voice and the vote- in honor of Mohamed Bouazizi

He had probably never voted but he had a voice and it deserved to be heard. We need to raise the bar for democracy in many places. We accept countries that play around with the voice and the vote. We snub out voices. We pretend we won and are representing the people or even as in my own country, simply steal the votes and then kill the people to get power. This must be made history.

When Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire, there must have been other young people hauling carts in different cities who were dying of hunger. I know some Kenyans were dying in famine. Thank goodness his deed led Tunisians to wake up. What has followed was history boldly stradling countries and we watching every moment as all this happened. Let Bouazizi's action probe our consciences.

Bouazizi Lit a Spark

by Mohja Kahf

"...when Mohamed Bouazizi poured inflammable liquid over his body and set himself alight outside the local municipal office, his act of protest cemented a revolt that would ultimately end President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year-rule."

I was living in a dark

cave as long as war,

as dank and sick as sanctions.

I was hungry as invasions,

I’d forgotten what hope

even tasted like,

crouching low and deep as fear,

and it started long before

I was born and looked to go

on and on beyond my death

and to swallow up my life.

We were living in the dark;

Bouazizi said enough

half-existing, and stood up—

not for Tunis or the nation

or me, or Liberation—

for himself, his human self.

In despair of a life

worthy of a human being,

Bouazizi lit a spark,

and he had some kerosene

and the spark lit a spark

and he set us all on fire.

And there ain’t no magic beans,

no quick stalk to paradise,

and the rubble’s full of rocks,

and the road is full of snakes.

But the wind is at our backs.

We can see horizons now.

A dictatorship has cracked,

and the border closed with fear

ain’t a border any more.

And the keys on keyboard fly,

as my fingers reconnect

human rights to human beings.

And it isn’t over yet;

it’s an avalanche begun,

danger falling through the air,

and the earth is shifting plates,

and the map is changing shape,

but I know now what I can do

and I know what you can, too,

and there ain’t no goin back.

Mohja Kahf was born in Damascus, and emigrated with her family to the USA in 1971. She is a poet, essayist, sex columnist and a professor of comparative literature at the University of Arkansas. She believes that the growing body of Muslim American literature has reached the critical mass where it might be considered its own genre, including works like “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” Khaled Hosseini’s novel “The Kite Runner” and “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid, as well as her novel and poetry.

Shailja Patel
Twitter: shailjapatel #migritude

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