Witnessing January 25, 2012…شاهد ٢٥ يناير ٢٠١٢
When discussing the ongoing Egyptian revolution, I’ve intentionally avoided first person narration. As a foreigner, it’s not my revolution and while I certainly empathize with those demanding their dignity in Tahrir Square and desire to assist them in realizing their demands, directly involving myself through acts of popular protests would do more harm than good.
That being said, it is impossible to emotionally detach myself from the ongoing Egyptian revolution. Nor am I certain of the basis for this attachment. Maybe its my Christian faith grounded in a social gospel; perhaps it’s a Jesuit high-school education based on social justice; or maybe its desiring that my Egyptian friends enjoy the same dignity with which I have been blessed thanks to a wining ticket in the global birth lottery. To date, I’ve satisfied my urges to change the status quo by donating blood (at an Egyptian hospital nonetheless), raising money for field hospital supplies, obsessively analyzing the possible outcomes of the political transition, and attempting to shape the narrative about Egyptian politics consumed by friends and family at home.
Today, I chosen the latter. I’ve chosen the written word as not only a tool for informational dissemination but also a means of intellectual digestion. What follows is my experience on January 25, 2012.
Continuing to awaken to the sound of marches pass beneath my window, I finally shook off my jet lag long enough to join the a march for the final one-mile walk to Tahrir Square. Chanting down, down with military rule, the river of people flowed down Tahrir Street crossing the El-Galaa and Kasir el-Nil bridges until it arrived at the Arab League. Glancing backwards to the west I saw an unending stream of sings, flags, and Egyptians that melted into the road as it neared the horizon line. To the north, Egyptians flowed in tens and twenties across the 6th October bridge. To the east, lay Tahrir Square itself filled to its brim with protestors and (Muslim Brotherhood) celebrators. After nearly being crushed my the masses attempting to enter the already full square, I rescinded myself to sitting next to the Arab League watching marches arrive and fill the Corniche (road running along the Nile) and reflecting on the status of this so-called revolution:
While in light of the posturing between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces it may be correct to state that the most likely outcome of the transition is a negotiated deal between the two (wherein the former governs through the legislature and the executive while the latter enjoys political immunity, holds economic monopolies, and possibly oversees both its budget and Egyptian foreign policy), it is by no means the ideal outcome – from both my perspective and those Egyptian liberal protestors who instigated the uprising. Moreover, when analyzing politics in a vacuum, it is easy to forget that those whose dignity is violated, whose lives are sacrificed, and whose bodies are dragged through the garbage are human beings rather than mere pawns in a game of high politics. They are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, co-workers and classmates, and friends and fiancés who are being killed, imprisoned, and sexually violated while political parties, military generals, and foreign countries attempt to maximize their perceived personal interests.
Witnessing hundreds of thousands of people demand their dignity is an awe-inspiring experience that a few months ago brought joyful tears to my eyes. However, witnessing these peaceful demands fall upon death ears over and over again while bodies pile up is a depressing experience no words can describe. Democracy may not be too different from autocracy. In the latter political elites violently represses those demanding reform while in the former they ignore and ridicule them. Either way, the result is the same: no reform, no respect for human dignity, and dwindling hope for the near-future.
With the macro depressing, one resorts to finding fleeting, distracting joys in the micro. Meals are cooked and shared, colleagues are re-connected, cover letters are written and Arabic is studied (albeit infrequently) while all attempt to ignore the elephant in the room.