From Columbus to Bahrain, voices are rising up to be heard from a throat that might normally be silent. Today, on a TV that is normally tuned to the news in the morning, I caught a mesmerizing documentary that is about just that: voices that a country needs to hear.
Afghan Star is a television show fashioned after shows like American Idol, a singing competition in which the people can vote by SMS for their favorite star. For many young Afghanis this is their first exposure to anything democratic.
The British documentary of the same name follows several of the competitors, coming from different regions across Afghanistan.
Fascinated by the decidedly non-Western music, I quickly became invested in these characters singing in a country where music used to be considered sacrilegious and continues to be controversial. Many fates could befall these young men and women for their participation, facing retribution from the Taliban or dangerous, negative attention from the older generation of Afghanis. One took singing lessons in secret, and another risked her life for the chance to be the first Afghan Star.
It might be strange to see singing a pop song as an act of political protest.
Protests against an unjust government continue to spread from country to country, and show no signs of stopping. It may seem as if collectively, we have had enough. At a quick glance it is both liberating and troubling, as the impetus for change is often served with a chaser of uncertainty.
The state of affairs makes it easy to fret when the world seems to be charged with electricity. What will be the outcome of these gatherings that in our country is our civil right, and in others warrants executions?
After watching Afghan Star, I am reminded that the act of self-expression is not just an artistic pursuit. Protesting is a positive and necessary part of our lives, much like music or art. We all have a voice, whether it is heard while singing into a hairbrush in front of a mirror, or broadcast on a megaphone in front of thousands.
The important part is to use that voice.