We’re closing up the Third Arab Bloggers Meeting and will soon be heading out for a final dinner. I’m just as sad as I am every time, but even sadder this time around because of Syria. While the meeting was dampened by the denial of visas to Palestinian bloggers, it was perhaps even more so because of the feeling of helplessness (and hopelessness) that pervaded every discussion about Syria.
Formal sessions were, as always, interesting, but from the debates and discussions that often went late into the night emerged a sense of unity amongst bloggers from the region, as well as a number of us outsiders, all of whom were here to listen and learn. I had been deeply honored to be invited to the last meeting in Beirut, and had often sat wide-eyed as I listened to the tactics discussed by bloggers and activists fighting for freedom in their countries. I then spent much of 2011 marveling at the role played by many of my friends made there–as well as before and after–in the revolutions in Tunis and Egypt, as well as in powerful activism in Syria, Bahrain, and beyond.
Now, I watch in amazement at these people I am proud to call my friends, as I continue to learn from them.
Last night, I took a short ride to the store with my friend Astrubaal. I had been teasing him only moments before at his own wide-eyed wonder at the Internet: He’d recalled the time he first read my writing, marveling at our similar views, and said: “This is why I love the Internet!” As I rode in his car, I was reminded of why I love the Internet:
Because it made all of this possible. Not Twitter, not Facebook, though the innovation of such tools surely help, but the sheer power of the Internet to connect me with these people from more than 20 countries, with whom I often find more in common than my neighbors. These friends that I’ve made over the past five years (with boundless thanks to Global Voices), with whom I’ve shared intense joy and deep sadness. There are some with whom I’ve traveled, and others who have opened their homes to me, and still others to whom I’ve opened mine. And of course, there are plenty with whom I’ve shared a glass of beer or ten.
I’m from a fairly small town, and have a very small family that I love very much. But community, and family, are what you make them, and this, over the course of the past five years has become my community, my family.