Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Broken Pearl

Last month, I wrote an entry I called the Pearl of the Arabian Gulf about my former host nation of Bahrain and the recent unrest there. (The name comes from Bahrain's claim to be The Pearl of the Gulf in reference to the island's historic pearl industry.)

I'd hoped that all I had to say on the subject was said then, but it wasn't. The talks I had hopes for didn't happen. More people have died. Tanks have crossed the bridge from Saudi. Large gatherings have been forbidden. And... They tore down the Pearl.

This was the Pearl Roundabout. I rode by it at least twice a day for two years. My mom got a flat there once. It flooded every year come the rainy season. It glowed at night. And it graced I don't even know how many thousands of post cards.

The Pearl Roundabout was a symbol of Bahrain. In many ways it was the heart of Bahrain, a symbol of that country's heritage nestled in the middle of a massively important intersection.

The image above shows the Pearl as it will always glow in my memories. The below shows a photo tweeted last night...

It's hard for me to judge what the average Bahraini thinks of this destruction. Certainly those who were already displeased with their government are more so now, but what about the people who have been standing by the Crown? I've seen many comments along the lines of "It's really only been there since 1982, so it's not that old," and "That intersection always had horrible traffic problems anyway." Both of these things are true and if the monument had come down because of planned improvements for the infrastructure, I would have felt merely sad to see it go. But that's not what happened.

The monument was destroyed because the Crown decided that the fact protests had been held there was more important than the fact that it was a symbol of the entire country.

It hard for me to see this as anything other than a temper tantrum, like when a toddler smashes his favorite toy because his brother was looking at it.

The official line is that this was an attempt to erase bad memories. Personally, every time I see a picture of the Pearl from now on I'm not going to think about the protests, but about a petulant government once again hurting their own people.

Maybe I'm so offended because I'm too American. I keep imagining what sort of uproar would occur if the White House tore down the Lincoln Monument and filled the reflection pool with concrete because people like to gather there to say unpleasant things about the government. If that happened, I wouldn't care what the protests had been about or whether I agreed with them. It's simply fundamental to my beliefs that governments don't have the right to act like that.

I know that tearing down a monument is civilized compared to other things that have happened in the Middle East this week. I continue to acknowledge that the Bahraini deaths have been appalling but less appalling than those in Libya and now Yemen. But being more reasonable than complete maniacs doesn't say very much for a government.

I'm sad today, mourning my hopes that a more fair Bahrain could be found without more violence. All the protesters wanted at the start of this was the basic right of representation. Things have moved beyond that now, and every day all parts of Bahraini society seem to be growing more uneasy and more on edge. I truly fear for Bahrain's near future.

I'm sorry for another downer, this is just important to me.

Here's something a little lighter... A picture from my sophomore year at Bahrain School...

Believe it or not, that really is the best picture in there of me. Le sigh. I was editing for the school Lit Mag, but have no idea why I was doing it with such a fat pen. (Also note that the writing mentions we met on Sundays. That wasn't the weekend. Sundays were our Tuesdays. :)

1 comment:

Myung Reed (formerly Cordrey) said...

You were quite a poet when you were at Bahrain School... and your last name was different.. and you introduced me to the wonderful world of Star Trek. We used to hang out together with the other Andrea.. ahh the wonderfully young days of high school!