First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I hear voices. These come from children, women and men who are speaking about the bullies in our lives, those that use manipulation, coercion, intimidation and ideology to justify egregious acts in our homes, schoolyards, workplaces, sports arenas, corporations, and countries. Some voices are faint and I strain to hear the words; others are loud enough to be heard around the world; and then, there is a deafening silence that scares me the most.
ideology (as in "political orientation") n. : an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation
There are bullies of all kinds that threaten our every day lives: humans, viruses, emotions, nature. But the deadliest bully out there among us is ideology; it can kill you, or worse, put you through insufferable torture. Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website that championed free speech in the autocratic kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His blog, the Saudi Free Liberals Forum, was shut down after his arrest in 2012. Because he is deemed to be unhealthy from the first 50 lashes, his weekly flogging has been deferred until he has regained some of his health.
His plight has not gone unnoticed; there has been a global outcry against the “cruel and inhuman” punishment by many worldwide human activists and the UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, and other countries, are expressing disapproval. The United States and the United Kingdom have been mostly silent on the subject. I wonder if when I fill my gas tank, blood runs through the hose, too.
There is an ironic twist in the case of Souad al-Shammari, who co-founded the Saudi Liberal Network with Raif Badawi, being freed after 90 days at a women’s prison in Jeddah. She was arrested in late October for the same charges against Badawi, insulting Islam, having posted comments on Twitter about Islamic religious leaders, but has been released through an amnesty program; but that will not be granted to Raif Badawi if he is forgotten or dead from ill health.
Raif Badawi has a slingshot against a Goliath, but this slightly built young man has a voice and the strength of convictions that already has impacted the international conscience. I have never met Raif Badawi or Souad al-Shammari, in person, only through the media, but if I could meet them face to face, I would thank them for their courage of convictions and enduring cruel, inhumane punishment for their ideology; for speaking up for the rights of men and women, not only in their country, but for universal rights, rights all human beings deserve.
These atrocities continue daily around the world. The Isis (Islamic State) is foremost in the news with its heinous acts against foreigners and its own people. What justification can there ever be for murder? And gunning down thirteen young boys because they watched a soccer game and broke sharia laws?
France hunted down the Islamic terrorists that murdered those at the magazine headquarter, Charlie Hebdo, killing the three cowards. Then had widely publicized discussion on freedom of speech, and rights of burial for the bodies that no one would claim. Did those reprobates deserve such consideration? No, not for them, but yes, for us; our humanity demands it.
Funny word, conviction. Defined by New Oxford Dictionary as:
conviction |kənˈvikSHən| noun
1 a formal declaration that someone is guilty of a criminal offense, made by the verdict of a jury or the decision of a judge in a court of law: she had a previous conviction for a similar offense.
2 a firmly held belief or opinion: his conviction that the death was no accident | she takes pride in stating her political convictions. • the quality of showing that one is firmly convinced of what one believes or says: his voice lacked conviction.
I am not sure if Raif Badawi is foolish or brave, maybe both, to have have put himself in mortal jeopardy by blogging about his convictions. He and Souad al-Shammari have made me question some of my own convictions, wondering just how vocal would I be if I thought I would be arrested, flogged or murdered. I am pretty smug about my constitutional rights to freedom of speech and fair, just and moral treatment if convicted of a crime, but I also know that there is always a possibility that an extremist could take exception to what I say and feel justified in killing me. I watched the football game on SuperBowl Sunday with my family, and never would imagine being executed, as the thirteen young teenage boys were by Isis extremists. If it came down to it, would I give up my gas-guzzling SUV if it meant sanctions against Saudi Arabia? Would I go to jail for my beliefs? Would I put myself in harm’s way for my convictions?
Frankly, I don’t know. But I hope that the voice of my conscience would be too loud for me to deny it.