Easy Prey

Easy Prey

The zebra is easy prey for lions, wild dogs and hyenas, among other predators. The zebras themselves are vegan, feeding almost exclusively on grasses. His or her stripes are unique to each individual. Like snowflakes, no two creatures are exactly alike. This is also the case for the markings on a giraffe. The giraffe is also vegan and susceptible to the same predators.

For some reason, zebras and giraffes come to mind as I think of vulnerable groups living in totalitarian regimes or regimes that might be heading in that direction. Who is most vulnerable and why? They may look alike, but they are not.

After the disenfranchised, obviously, journalists fall heavily into this category. When lightning strikes, there must be someone left to alert the rest of us to seek shelter. If there is no one to warn us, we can easily fall prey to all sorts of disasters, both natural and unnatural. And sometimes, like the defenseless zebra, who can render a deadly kick and little else, we miss the warning signs until it is too late.

Zebras sleep standing up, and it is difficult to imagine more vigilance than this. The one time I fell asleep standing up on the subway in New York City, I was pick-pocketed, so this may not be the best answer.

Just being zebras

As the Turkish journalists went on trial last week on charges of aiding a terrorist organization, I thought of the zebras, innocent and defenseless, huddled together, just being zebras, mares surrounding their young with only a stallion to protect them. I thought of the giraffes, only sleeping for only five minutes at a time, always on the alert for predators, always protecting their young, just being giraffes. I’m not sure the journalists have any protection at all. And they were just being journalists.

On Friday, seven of the 17 journalists were released, after nine months in jail, though they remain under judicial supervision, until another hearing on Sept. 11. According to a report in The Atlantic, if they are found guilty, they face between 22 to 43 years in jail. The episode comes after last year’s attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Since then, a nationwide crackdown has targeted police officers, military personnel, court officials, teachers and journalists. All together, the Turkish government has detained more than 150 journalists, which puts the country at the top of the list of the world’s leading jailer of journalists and intellectuals, according to Pen International.

As President Trump threatens to fire the people investigating him, anyone not completely loyal to him, we must see the signs of a predator, a threat to our way of life. The Turkish people did not have the same checks and balances to protect them, as we do in the United States, and they voted (under some duress and who knows what else) in favor of changing the constitution that legally kept their predator at bay.

Free to speak

Still and all, freedom is not something that can ever be taken for granted. The freedom that I have to write publicly in response to the actions of our president is a freedom the Turkish people any longer have. Many of us would be in prison at this point if not for our freedom of speech protections.

Attacking this freedom is the first act of any totalitarian regime. Shut down communication in all forms and no one will know the truth. Would we speak out so freely if not for freedom of speech? Would I be a writer who speaks out or one who hides anonymously amongst the herd? I cannot answer that question, as much as I’d like to believe that I would.

Although humans can be like zebras and huddle together for protection, we also have the capacity to gather together in protest, to raise our voices, to write in indignation, to fight against what we know to be wrong. We are more fortunate than the unlucky zebra or the equally vulnerable giraffe.

I have a strong suspicion that President Trump, as well as President Erdoğan, knows who is easy prey. Some of the most vulnerable are the ones who vote for them because of what they profess they will do. They pose as Robin Hoods while they amass wealth for themselves and their families.

The lion is only sleeping

And even when their true intentions become clear, the vulnerable do not wish to believe that the lion is only sleeping; he is NOT dead. He is merely waiting for just the right moment. Then he slashes the throat of the weakest with his teeth in one motion. If you have never witnessed a lion kill, it is instantaneous. Perhaps preying on humans is more like the attack of the wild dogs that look so pretty and innocent and yet tear their prey to pieces.

When we stick our necks out, we make ourselves as impotent as the giraffe. They also sleep while standing. Whether or not we stick our necks out or tuck them under, like the ostrich, is entirely up to us. I make no judgment. And the lion or hyena or wild dog doesn’t care. Nonetheless, when we take no action and say nothing, it is as good as saying I approve. And with our freedoms in jeopardy, perhaps we should all think about sleeping standing up for a five-minute nap.

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