A Love Song For Libya

I woke up too early this morning, partly because I’ve been skipping my chiropractor, partly because I ditched my cleaning lady to pay for horse boarding, partly because I have story chomping at my brain and it wanted to tell me about the next transition at 3AM. So at five I gave up, got up, made coffee, got ready to start my day an hour and a half early. I did my usual spin across the internet, poking at news sites and blogs, and the next thing I know, I wind up looking at this. And this.

This is one of the scores of signs being held in peaceful demonstrations in Libya in response to the attack on the US Embassy. Apparently Libyans, especially in Benghazi, are coming out in droves to stand in the street and hold up signs saying, “This violence is not who we are.”


I think my favorites are the misspelled signs, the ones with English so broken you have to work to comprehend what they’re saying. They make me cry the hardest, because to me they say, I need to speak to you, I know you can’t understand my language, let me try very hard to use yours. The imperfection breaks me. This is humanity. This is who we are. These are real people, people who aren’t caught up in lies and hate and words, but who understand that sometimes to speak to hearts words must be employed.

The trigger, as far as I can surmise, for this incident is some fucked-up movie we the US, moronic collection of egomaniacs that we are, produced on our shores, but that’s just the flint that blew the powder in a room chock-full. The whole world is angry. We have angry Christians convinced Islam is the devil and should be burned. We have angry Islamists hating everything Western. We have politicians and news media who, when a tragedy like this happens, fixate on who said what about whom at what time and how can we make this the news item for the next few days, how can we exploit this, how can we spin the blood and anger into something we can use. People with power and voice and influence, precious few doing more than a gloss on what’s really happening and how it should stop.

Enter the Libyans and their signs.

I think they make me cry because this is how I feel. Signs do so little, but in a world spinning so crazily, all of us watching each other behind glass with so little means to reach out and console one another and make the connections that can stop this kind of thing–what else do we have, but signs in a square? I can write this blog post and maybe, if I’m lucky, a Libyan will see it. I could stand in my own square with a sign. I could charge a flight to Libya and do…what, exactly? And what would the people there do if they came here? Say sorry? I’d say it too. Sorry my country is full of idiots who think you’re murderers and lunatics because of your religion, even though the main religion of my country actually has a worse history. Sorry that even when my country helps yours, probably not enough as it was, it’s political and people carry on. Sorry that I don’t know what to say. Sorry you have assholes and idiots too. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

We elect leaders to do the jobs for us we cannot all do, and yet so few leaders ever even come close. We do our best to make safe and strong societies, but there will always be assholes and fools. There will always be hate and violence, so long as there are people in the world.

This morning the Libyans reminded me that while all that may be true, with humans also come love and hope. They stood in their city squares and touched a woman in her bathrobe in Iowa.

Shukran, Libya. Allah taskon fii hatha albayt.


3 Comments on “A Love Song For Libya

  1. Hey Heidi,
    Thanks so much for helping me figure out some of my feelings this week. The news has really had me in a down mood for so many of the reasons you articulated. And because people who were trying to change things, on both sides, are dead, and their families are mourning truly fabulous people. And I’m mourning them too because the world can’t bear to have fewer people like them. But seeing these pictures makes me realize there are more people like them than I knew.

  2. Heidi,

    Well said! I saw the first sign on the Rachel Maddow Show and it made me cry. Seeing the sin the young boy is holding is almost breaking it, I wish I was more tech savvy because I would forward that picture to every Congress person, news outlet and certain blogs in America. When we hear negative and destructive comments it’s up to us to inform, question, challenge and teach a different message and live up to what Americans value – we’re all created equal.

  3. I find this whole thing so tragic. The worst in some ways is my two youngest and I are studying Africa this years since they have a brother doing relief work in South Sudan. We have spent 3 weeks studying North Africa specifically. I hate that such a tragic event had current events tie in with school. I love your post and these images because it reminds me that the point of our study this year is to get to know people and how much we share.

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