Your Witness

May 27, 2016


I will be your witness.

I will bear witness the way I was taught, the way I understand witness-bearing.

As a perpetrator.

Because I am a beneficiary of the system that steals from your body, and delivers to mine.

I see my future. That soon I will be cannibalized, too.

That doctors and corporations take up my working hours for their convenience and profit is not the injustice. That they take up your living hours is the injustice.

I will give up my working hours to bear witness to this theft.

I see that while the world loves me for my productivity and output and potential, it brutalizes you for your indefinability, unprofitability, and for your manifestation of those potentials in this world.

You carry out potentials to their full consequence, and in a system built on unrealized potentials, it is such a threatening truth.

I will be your witness.

I will watch and flick at the air bubbles in the tubing. I will watch the blood run out of your arm.

Just as I watched them deny you, tell you things that made no sense with voices of authority that churn out for hours, making a profit at your expense.

I will wash your hair, or rather, I will watch you wash your hair, stubbornly, and know myself be the witness, not the caretaker.

You want solidarity, not care, not help. You want me in the shower with you, not for you.

I understand that each day you report to me your nighttime and daytime horrors, you deserve a witness. Without a witness, what is this life?

I remember learning in Tibet that resistance by the vulnerable never works without witnesses.

But also that grown men may be executed on the street before witnesses.

All witnesses perpetrate.

So, it is fair that bearing witness is devastating.

It requires the chronic mental space of minutia, worry, and forms-- with you, not for you-- the looming horizon of unjust deaths, of public secrets, of outrageous power dynamics, of ceaseless change that ruptures life-giving continuities and transfers.

You do not need much, my friend.

You need only a comrade, willing to see the truth and act upon it…

With you not for you.


About the Author

Jessica Kali RubaiiKali Rubaii is cofounder of the Islah Reparations Project. She works at UC Santa Cruz and Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA).

A Phd candidate in  Social Anthropology, her dissertation focuses on the impact of occupation and counterinsurgency on rural communities in Iraq and Palestine.

Her mother suffers  from Chronic Tick Born Illness.