Soon after resigning from the Toronto Star yesterday, I chatted with a CBC reporter who asked the question that I suspect is on a lot of minds still: Why pick this hill to die on?
The answer lies in the question itself.
I come from the world of war reporting, where each day journalists in countless places choose to offer up their lives for the truth.
To some, mostly those who've never been there, that might sound bombastic. But it's true.
A quarrel over the search for two ships that sank in the middle of the 19th century probably doesn't strike people as the best reason to turn your back on a six-figure salary and walk the plank.
To understand why, you only need to know this: I've lost track of the times I was nearly killed because I knew I had to give a bigger voice to frightened, intimidated people who couldn't stand up to power on their own.
That is the core of the story I've returned to after breaking free yesterday from a six-week reporting ban imposed by Toronto Star editors.
I was willing to sacrifice my life at many moments over some two decades as combat reporter and photographer, in places like Mogadishu and the Somali countryside, in the blood-soaked streets of Rwanda, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, in the former Yugoslavia . . . and on and on.
Yesterday I decided to sacrifice my livelihood for the truth. That's much harder, actually, because it affects my family's future -- and I'll still be around to watch them suffer the consequences.
I'll admit that's scary at times. And, as anyone who knows my background will attest, I'm not easily scared.
But when I admit that fear, I think of the alternative: Silence.
Which only breeds more fear.
For strength, I also remember fallen comrades along the way and ask myself: If they had lived, would they still have the fight in them now?
And I know they would. That's just how combat journalists live. They must be willing to lose everything. They put that much faith in the truth.
I also think of a simple fact about moments of revolutionary change: They arrive, usually after long suffering, when a critical mass of people, as diverse as the society they live in, decide they're not going to be afraid anymore.
When they stand up, others follow.
It's time. No more fear. Stand up for the people being silenced and give them voice.
That's the only way we'll take our democracy back.
This post was originally published on Paul Watson's blog.
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