The unity rally, a universal sparkplug
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - January 15, 2015 - 12:00am

It is difficult for me, a non-mechanic, to imagine how an engine can start without a sparkplug. When my friend, Arnold Opone, worked on the engine of my old 1303S Volkswagen Beetle as we prepared it for a Car Show sometime ago, he tried his best to explain the function of a sparkplug, to no avail because no matter what he said, the information simply bounced off my unreceptive brain.

In world history, there have been social and political spark plugs that some brilliant Arnold Opones among us could still not fully explain. They were the events that somehow triggered the development of societies' mind frame and initiated some corresponding multi-dimensional upheavals. What is worth noting is that a number of those incidents were seemingly insignificant. When they took place, no one expected them to snowball into unexpected proportions.

The unity rally that took place in France few days ago could be a modern social sparkplug of some kind that might take a whole crowd of thinkers more than a lifetime to digest. It was a sight to behold because its more significant participants were not invited. They braved security risks and volunteered to come from diverse, often conflicting, sectors of the French capital. What should boggle our mind is that they joined a demonstration the objective of which could still be largely unspecified. Indeed, how was it that Jews, Christians, Muslims and others, including the atheists locked arms as they marched the historic avenues in Paris.

While Arnold awed me with his assembling the parts of my Beetle engine for it to run almost silently, my hair stood on its end when I saw, on competing international television channels CNN, BBC, and Aljazeera, the leader of the Palestinians walked on the same line with the prime minster of Israel. The scene was unthinkable, to say the least! I could not believe they could come together for an apparent, yet unspecified cause, because while they were just separated by few world leaders with them, I could not forget that since time immemorial, they have been at odds and many of their conflicts ended in brutal deaths.

History tells us that in the early part of the Second World War, German forces overran the French army and trampled upon France but, in that particular Sunday of the Unity Rally, the lady prime minister of Germany walked almost side by side with her French counterpart. They obviously laid to rest the horrible memories of their cruel war in favor of something tethered to an ideal.

Together with the world leaders came the so-called grass roots. During that unity rally, the TV cameras panned to a young Tunisian student as he warmly embraced the presence of his Croatian peer. There was a youthful Indian who, after admitting that he came to France to study, confessed that the event gave him an opportunity to know more of the multi-cultured society of Paris than his books could offer.

The unity march in Paris was, to restate, a spark plug of something extraordinary. It started a global movement that can try to understand the deep roots of our freedoms. When USA sent its Attorney General to join it, when a Spanish monarch came to grace the event, and when the British Prime Minister gave the march a degree of importance, the world delivered a message that a universal ideal called freedom and its most important aspect, freedom of expression, cannot be extinguished by the macabre threat of impending death to its practitioners.

The deaths of the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, 2 policemen, and 11 civilians at the hands of two extremist-brothers were brutal. Experts believe that crime was perpetrated in an attempt to cower free people from expressing their thoughts. But, the contrary could have been achieved. The murderers act backfired. Rather than creep into their cells of safety, lovers of freedom the world over have taken all steps to show that there is nothing that can prevent them to say what they want the world to know. Death may stalk them in every idea they write about, but they would face it than retreat to their dungeons of silence. And if the unity rally were that kind of universal sparkplug, we will see the engine of freedom rev to its unprecedented dimension.

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