Into the Lion’s Den
Walking around the relatively peaceful chaos of Milan, I am reminded of the very different world I am about to enter just across the Mediterranean. As I walk by the San Siro, one of the great cathedrals of football, I think of the heated rivalry between Inter Milan, and the heirs apparent to the Scudetto, AC Milan. The rivalry can often turn violent, but the violence is rather sterile in comparison to the Arab Spring.
When I return to the hotel, I watch a few more videos of footage streaming from Libya, and wonder what the hell I am getting myself into. This is not an old-fashioned bout of fists and sticks. This is the indiscriminate nature and utter cruelty of war. I see a leg torn right off by an anti-aircraft gun used on protesters. The man’s insides pour out. I see the charred remains of what must have been at one time a human being, and only two months ago at that. Then I see the other side. Mercenaries from Mali, Algeria, Sudan, once animated, once sneaking into Libya to earn a hefty paycheck. Now they are just more food for the Gun. Motionless, lifeless, just decaying isotopes of carbon.
When the dust of war clears, these grim reminders will decay, just like the carbon-14 that comprises them. And when those reminders decay, will we forget the Gaddafi’s, the Mubarrak’s, the Ben Ali’s? Will we allow the new generation to replace them…Asshole version 7.1? In our own country, will we allow our own voice to go silent for fear of losing what we possess? I certainly hope not.
As I enter straight into the heart of the Libyan conflict, into the lion’s den, the rebels remind me of the chorus from that Kris Kristofferson song, made famous by Janis Joplin’s version: Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. The rebels, perhaps for the first time in their lives, understand this. The freedom of movement when even fear is lost. In our own backyard, the protests have given me cause for a little optimism, but we as a whole still have too much to lose. We keep silent, or grumble at best, and we still vote the same people in office. Those same people who have figured out sophisticated ways of manipulating the system, and outright thievery . They take from us, but not enough to leave us below the nothing-left-to-lose threshold. But do we really have to wait? We still have the rule of law in our favor, and it’s about time we use it to our own advantage. Otherwise the generations are just biding time. Waiting and waiting until there is nothing left to steal, not even the fear.
-Matthew Millan on the ground, and soon to be supporting from Libya