In Iran: The power of the poet

Dear Reader,

I awoke this morning to dreadful news on two fronts: One, the city of Spokane contends that the death of a schizophrenic man hog-tied by police — a well known local who was holding only a plastic pop bottle at the time, and whose last words were, “All I wanted was a Snickers” — the death of Otto Zehm was his fault. As a result, I’m going to join a protest next week in front of City Hall demanding police accountability in this city where cameras watch us from nearly every street corner and all through our public parks, and where an officer recently was exonerated for shooting an Indian man in the back of the head while he, the officer, was off duty and had been drinking heavily at a bar.

Police brutality aside, however, I don’t have to worry about being shot and killed during the protest — unlike the citizens of Iran, who must climb to the rooftops to use their voices in the dark of the night. My heart breaks to watch this video of a poet murmuring, “Where is this place?” while calls of Allahu akhbar sound a plaintive echo: Music may have the power to soothe the savage breast, but, again, words — poetry, in this case — have the power to inflame it.

Khamenei’s speech, rather than deal the crushing blow he apparently intended, has strengthened the resolve of protesters to exercise their freedom of speech, the most powerful tool in the human arsenal.

Their defiance of tyranny not only brings tears to my eyes, but inspires me even more to become involved in my immediate world. As a newspaper reporter for 25 years, I was that fly on the wall, writing about controversy instead of contributing to it. Now, however, I have no excuse for passivity, for merely watching and talking but not doing. I’ve been talking about free speech for more than a year now. It’s time for me to use it, right here in Spokane, where change is badly needed but will not come until I, and others of like minds, come together and demand it.

Keep reading!