While walking on the beach yesterday afternoon in a gusting wind that blew the sea into white foam and turquoise slicks I got to thinking about the report I heard on Democracy Now of the 23-year-old journalist in Afghanistan who was sentenced to death — following a secret trial, in which he had no legal representation, that convicted him of blasphemy — for distributing articles he’d downloaded from the Internet that said the Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women.
And that got me thinking about an email I received from someone I don’t know who said he admired me as a writer because I’m not afraid to speak truth to power, and while I’m not at all sure I know what “truth” is, although I’m pretty sure I can spot a lie, I do know that it takes very little courage to speak up in America, with First Amendment rights and all that to protect me, as well as a certain malaise among those in power who are used to being criticized and so aren’t generally inclined to do much about it, unless you step on really big money toes and end up dead, but that doesn’t happen often enough that it should scare folks into silence.
Not like the journalists and others who are routinely murdered in Iraq and Russia and other nations for daring to scrutinize and criticize, and so have reason to be afraid, and still they are not. They are the ones with courage.
And as the wind tugged at my sweatshirt hood and a boobie rode the air currents, fishing close to shore, and Koko raced through untouched sand, I could only wonder why so many journalists are so lazy, meek and timid in America, where it is so safe and easy to be otherwise.