27 April 2012

A Year Gone

Last year Morocco seemed for a while to be following the path of its eastern neighbours. Protests were proliferating, with public participation unseen since the 1970s. King Mohammed VI, whose legitimacy was never targeted by the protests – even if that of his regime was – deftly retook the initiative by proposing, and hurriedly passing, a new constitution. Elections that followed led, for the first time, to victory for the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD by its French acronym), which is now in office
I was there for the above developments, but what happened while I was gone?

Was there, or will there be a Second Spring?

My feelings about last year are mixed.  At first, I was very vocal about encouraging the 20th of February, and most protests.  On principle, I usually agree with protestors, especially after having spent so long living in a place, and so long actively trying to figure out what was going on.

But after a few weeks, I was accused of Orientalism, and told that this wasn't my country, so I didn't have a right to an opinion - because I hadn't suffered through the food shortages and the hard times in the late 80s and early 90s.  I also was accused of wishing the fates of Syria and Egypt upon Morocco.  It hurt, but I did begin to understand the opposing view.  Maybe not accept it, but I began to understand that people had finally, only recently gotten comfortable, and so rocking the boat was not something they wanted, having the memory of widespread poverty so fresh in their minds.

So, although my opinions didn't change, I kept more quiet, and started listening more.  Or rather, reading more.  But then I came back to the states, where the news is less focused on Moroccan politics, and more focused on broader, surface-level analyses of the Arab world.  And so keeping quiet has actually served to keep me isolated.

Thus, this is why I am confused about how to speak, feel, and act.  My social justice education always tells me to speak out against injustice, wherever I see it, no matter what.  But the practical repercussions of that, especially in a country into which I have been warmly accepted and from which I have been harsly rejected, simply by virtue of my birthplace, are much more difficult to deal with than I had originally thought.

So, now, since I have been away for months, I believe that I have to sit back and listen again.  Maybe I can do something more effective in the future, but not yet.  Not yet.

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