Standing in the Rubble

Two months ago, near the start of the Libyan revolution, I read this paragraph:

Gaddafi, clad in brown robes and a turban, spoke on Tuesday evening from a podium set up in the entrance of a bombed-out building that appeared to be his Tripoli residence hit by US air raids in the 1980s and left unrepaired as a monument of defiance.

And I immediately thought to myself: No, that’s not right at all.

I was considering the image of all that rubble, all that damage left on display, and I understood that there is nothing defiant about flaunting your damage. Maintaining that rubble was an act of blame, not “defiance”.

That rubble could have been bulldozed; a park could have been built. The stones and space could have become a new thing. But taking away the damage takes away the memory of the act of destruction; if there is no wound, then the impact of the original strike is diminished.

Rebuilding is the defiant act. It shows that the damage was inconsequential and that we remain unfettered. We are still growing. Your act did not make us stumble. What you did, did not matter.

To maintain our damage is to maintain blame; it says to the aggressor, “Look! Look what you have done! You are guilty, and here is the proof, and I will never let you forget it.”

The only persons we are defying are ourselves.

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