By Mahmoud Elbarasi
As the news of Ambassador Chris Stevens’ death swept across the globe, the last golden rays of post-revolutionary splendor passed into the night.
The time for speeches, gratuitous backslapping and revolutionary memorabilia has come and gone. We now live and breathe at the point in modern Libyan history where a clear and unsentimental decision must be made. Libyans must decide what type of system our brothers and sisters fought and died for.
The murder of Ambassador Stevens will forever be a stain on the annals of post-Qaddafi Libyan history. For the first time in my life, I can not pass on a Libyan tragedy of this magnitude directly to the “brother leader”. Libya is our responsibility now.
In taking this responsibility, it is imperative that we strive towards intellectual honesty and that we preserve the goals of the revolution.
Since the revolution was an attack on fascism, it might follow that any kind of authoritarianism would not be tolerated. This has not been the case. In the weeks leading up to the ambassador’s death we saw over and over again the forced Talibanesque fascist destruction of artworks, books and grave sites (my own grandfather’s headstone was destroyed outside of Magroun).
The perpetrators of these crimes went through no democratic process to obtain legitimate destruction permits (if such a thing even exists); instead, they chose to walk into any building they found offensive and simply destroyed what they pleased.
Weeks later, this same mentality was deadly, with the American consulate burned. A great friend of Libya who fought with us against Qaddafi was murdered in cold blood. The ringleaders of this mentality will use any excuse to incite hatred and violence in their quest for power. In this case, an obscure, low-rent, d-list film did the trick. While the destroyers of Libyan cultural heritage walk freely among us, an American who went out of his way to help rid us of the tyrant lies dead.
Take away the haughty pseudo-religious declarations and language, the self-appointed “theological rights”, and these men are nothing more than the old regime in new clothes. It is time to call a spade a spade. We are dealing with fascists. Joseph Stalin was a fascist and an atheist; Osama bin Laden was a fascist and a Muslim. It is like cancer: it can infect and overtake every walk of life.
These are power-hungry bullies, not enlightened spiritual men. Muammar Qaddafi dressed up and played “intellectual” or “poet” or “revolutionary”, but in the end he was none of these things. He was a fascist. He was in it for the money and the might. Any man who attempts to dominate by force another man’s mind or body is the same, be it in a general’s uniform or in religious robes.
As a Libyan-American I had deep respect for Ambassador Stevens. He was an American deeply invested in the workings and future of our small country, and a true friend to the Arab people. To hear of his death gave me a feeling of deep dread. He represented the best in the American spirit, an American who after 9/11 continued the dialogue between East and West. He sought to bridge the cultural gulf, not widen it.
I am ashamed that a man like this has been murdered in the land of my fathers.
Libyans don’t need ideologues. Libyans need the garbage picked up. A lot of garbage.
Mahmoud Elbarasi is a poet who lives in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, the son of a Libyan father and an American mother. Some of his work is published in Arabic.