Rhubarb and rhetoric

A rough week


In hindsight, I wish I’d maintained some of my blogging over the summer so that my foray back into the blogosphere could have been on the subject of something a bit more positive than the events of last week. But hindsight is 20-20, while my vision is closer to 20-400. So instead of a post on my trip to Eurovision, or my many exploits and travels this summer, I’m jumping back in with a much less lighthearted topic.

If you’ve been following the news, or if you are part of the Foreign Service community, then you know by now that last Tuesday four State Department employees, including Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed in an attack on the U.S. compound in Ben Ghazi, Libya. To say this came as a shock would be one of the more significant understatements one could make. It’s often said that the Foreign Service is a tight-knit family, and although I recognized this before, it was brought home particularly sharply last week. I never met Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, or Tyrone Woods. However, one of my closest friends is stationed in Tripoli, and I cannot imagine the mix of thoughts and emotions she has been experiencing since Tuesday night.

Many other Foreign Service bloggers have already said most of my sentiments more eloquently or poignantly than I could hope to express them. But to take a step back, September 12, 2011 was my first day in the Foreign Service. In the interim year my life has changed both much more and much less than I could have imagined – I’m still living in the same country I called home 13 months ago, but in circumstances that are markedly different. So far, I love what I’m doing here, and I love the opportunities to interact with a variety of people and explore more of a country I find fascinating. But the deaths on September 11, 2012, on the last day of my first year with State, bring home exactly how dangerous or difficult this career can be. Over the rest of the week, as protests spread to other countries in the region, the round of “Are you ok?” emails from family and friends made me realize that even though I feel perfectly safe here, that may not always be the case at future posts.

We did have a protest here in Ankara today. Luckily, according to local news reports, it was very small and nonviolent. After burning an American flag, the protestors dispersed. Most of the media (and protestors!) in Turkey have been much more focused on a mine attack on Turkish soldiers in the Southeast, and on other clashes with the PKK that left several dozen dead, not on a badly edited YouTube film clip that’s not even in a language they speak. Media coverage of the protests in Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, and of course Libya, among other countries, shows a very different situation. It’s sometimes easy to gloss over the difficulties and dangers of this job, especially with the common perception back home of a diplomat’s job being mostly cocktail parties and evening gowns. But not this week.