Bearing Witness

We were all apart of the #Egypt revolution.

Not in the way that Nicholas Kristof, a journalist, or Shervin Pishevar, an activist, were, and certainly not the way that the people of Egypt were.

But we were a part of it. As the people of Egypt gathered in Tahrir Square and held up their signs, many in English, they did so knowing the world was watching. When they were claiming their own power to express their deepest yearning of freedom, we were quietly hopeful. As they accomplished something many never imagined to be possible, a people so underestimated by their own government, we welcomed their strength.

When we watched Al Jazeera to see another point of view, or tweeted about the Egyptian people with a hash tag of #Jan25th, what we were saying was: “you matter”.

Even as the US government struggled to form a cohesive approach, saying, “it’s complicated” or as Biden said, “Mubarak is not a dictator”, we the people of America knew that oppression is still oppression, and freedom is still freedom. Complicated? Kinda of. But also, at many levels, simple.

As we stayed present with our eyes that see and our ears that listen, we played a role. We were witnesses. Elie Wiesel has said, “Bearing Witness is a huge commitment”.

When we are witnesses to one another, we play a crucial role to experience the person, as they are, and also as they are become who they will be. We do not change them in our witness, imposing our will. Being a witness does let that person know that they matter and it matters to us that they become more of who they are meant to be. Without witnesses, we have no one watching us grow… into who we are becoming.

This is the part that Malcolm Gladwell doesn’t appear to get. For those of you not into the social media world, Malcolm wrote, “Why the revolution will not be tweeted” back in October and then again a few weeks ago. His point that “People protested and brought down governments before Facebook was invented” is certainly valid. What he’s not noticing is that the How matters. The media did not shape my understanding of what was going on in Egypt; I did. And so did my friends. People who 10 years ago couldn’t get their own understanding of things happening half a world away could now have direct access. In knowing more, we might see more.

By being present to others, we can serve them.
We bear witness.

1 Reply

  1. Medium and the message are always connected. Remember that in “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman.. he showed us how television changed us more than we realized. And now it’s the internet, and twitter, and all the many ways we continue to reinvent how we communicate, connect and witness to each other…the medium re-forms our thinking, and that changes us. (thanks to Laura Strange for sharing this).

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