A people are not always their leaders


Almost a year ago I took an opportunity to partner with a nonprofit foundation in Saudi Arabia to help develop the advocacy skills of their staff and grantees. While our conversations were necessarily constrained by their political realities, I encountered good people, earnest and effective in their pursuit of strengthening the social and economic well being of Saudis. In the last few days as the details of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder have become known, I am of course shaken, but am also thinking of the people I worked with, and the friends I made while in Riyadh. And I’m reminded that a people are not always their leaders.

We need look no further than our own doorstep to understand that Russians are not Putin, and North Koreans are not Kim Jong-Un, for we are not Trump. In every dark corner of every country there will always be good people working to improve conditions for their families, their communities, their nation. And while we stand aghast and indignant over the events unfolding on the world stage, we must not become blind, numb, or indifferent to our own slide deeper into fascism.

Less than two months ago Trump referred to our media as the “enemy of the people.” How many steps is it from that to extrajudicial killings? He has already applauded the same by Duterte in the Philippines– and let us not forget his own boast that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody…and not lose any voters.”

So let us be shocked and disgusted– and heartbroken for Khashoggi’s fiancĂ©e Hatice Cengiz– but let us also remain compassionate toward those the media would tell us to fear abroad and resolute in our commitment to maintain a functioning democracy at home.



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