By COLUM McCANN
Published: December 23, 2011
THE BREATH AND HUM of democracy seemed almost a libidinous thing in parts of the Middle East, but, in truth, the body heat had been simmering for years. The protests took hold in Tunisia in late 2010 after the street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire. The kindle caught and the spirit of his self-immolation lit a fuse across the region. A wave of protests struck Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan. Almost as soon as protesters in Cairo were being herded away from Tahrir Square, they were dancing at the news of Mubarak’s resignation. Ruling families began to fall. Power-transfer treaties were brokered. Parliaments were dissolved. Monarchs locked their gates and boarded their windows. In Libya, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was ousted and killed. NATO planes streaked a sky so blue it seemed it to speak of other Septembers. Faces, too, were lit by a new blue light. It was the era of the revolution down through the wires: time was collapsed and geography shrunk by the use of social networking. The whole world was indeed watching, listening, e-mailing. Some in the media lost their lives for the art of the images that emerged — the photographs didn’t just capture singular moments, but they looked backward and forward at the same time, at what has happened, and what is yet to come. The light from the Arab Spring rose from the ground up; the hope is now that the darkness doesn’t fall.
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