It has been a season. I teach my students to look for pivotal moments in their reading, and I, also, recognize pivotal times in life when I see them. So many things have been up in the air. We thought it might be time to pull ourselves away from our beloved Tunisia this year, and the exploration of that possibility took us through many soul-searching doors we hadn’t anticipated passing through. We are still in a state of wonder at the experience. Doors were slammed shut so resoundingly that our ears are still ringing. The universe spoke: We are meant to be here. And we have so very, very much to be grateful for. Many of our loved ones are experiencing sickness, pain, and loss. We are not. Hallelujah. At the moment, we’re OK!
My heart, this advent, is fully with our adopted country. It has been our profound privilege to work and live inside Tunisia, these past six years, through their democratic transition. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize comes at a time when they are wondering what it has all been for. Recent violence from their own radicalized sons has been demoralizing, adding layer upon layer of isolation from the world, increased poverty, and deferment of their vision of a peaceful life with opportunities for their young people. The Nobel committee honored the seemingly simple, yet most complicated way that the Tunisia National Dialogue Quartet worked to bring Tunisia back from the brink of civil war in 2013. They kept dialogue going between all constituents. They convinced parties to set aside their individual agendas. They held up core values as more important than ideologies. They took turns at leadership as they were needed. What a model for the world of how to make cooperation a priority in order to accomplish something more positive, for the greater good. I am so happy and proud of them.
This performance at the Nobel ceremony stole my breath, and I have watched it at least 20 times. The passion, delicacy, defiance, and skill of Emel Mathlouthi’s performance represents the complicated spirit of Tunisia. I have gained hope from this award, and I pray it might be the external moral support Tunisia needs to carry through.
“…Peace was really loud, and I was so thrilled to be a part that made it louder!!”
Emel Mathlouthi in a letter sent to the Nobel committee.
“Kelmti Horra” (My Word is Free) English/French translations