Khaled Mattawa: Rising to Shake off the Fear in Libya





[Khaled Mattawa is a poet and a professor of creative writing at the University of Michigan. His latest book of poetry is "Tocqueville."]

...Having grown tired of exile, I began to visit home again starting in 2000. The dictator's style then consisted mainly of African robes made of fabrics fit for movie scenes set in cheap bordellos. Amid the talk of reforms and a return to the international fold, his absurd attire and demeanor seemed to mock all that was being said around him. The facial lines on his cheeks deepened; the sacks around his eyes made him seem perpetually squinting; the long, thin lips seemed set in a curl of boundless contempt. Not a single gray wisp could be seen in the mop of wild hair dyed coal black, nor even in his goatee.

Watching the homicidal clown and his offspring — one ghastly daughter and several murderous-looking sons dressed in Italian suits or army uniforms — 6 million Libyans asked themselves daily: These are our leaders?

How sweet it is now to see my countrymen rise to shake off decades of fear, defensiveness and shame, to see them burn and tear poster after poster, billboard after billboard depicting one of history's most loathsome figures, the man who has oppressed and humiliated them for four decades....



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