It is hard being Egyptian these days.
I remember how I felt just after the 2011 Revolution. I had a business trip to the US just two days after we toppled Mubarak. I walked through the airports with my Egyptian flag waving, my head held high. At the international conference in which I was an invited speaker on science journalism, I instead talked about the amazing achievements of the Egyptian Revolution to standing ovations of large audiences. I had never felt prouder to be an Egyptian.
Now, I just hang my head in confusion and despair. I knew our road to democracy was going to be hard. But I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Now that light completely eludes me.
The last three years in Egypt have been, for lack of a better word, shit. Pretty much nothing has gone well. It feels like I spent a decent amount of my time walking back and forth between my house and the ballot boxes. Not once was my vote ever in the majority. I would get upset but then I would tell myself that this was democracy. I had one of three choices: accept the vote of the majority and just live with it, accept the vote of the majority but try to play some role in changing it in the future, or believe that the majority of Egyptians will never want the Egypt I am looking for and find somewhere else to live. I was hoping I would at best make the second choice or at worst live with the first choice.
I’m not so sure anymore.
I will refrain from trying to analyze what has happened in Egypt over the past three years and why. I couldn’t even begin to attempt to simply summarize it all. It has just been too much. The number of players is immense. Their games, strategies, and goals diverse. It has been as if Egypt is a big slimy rubber ball that has been thrown up in the air and so many hands are reaching out trying to grab it. It falls into one pair of hands for a few seconds only to slip out, bounce off the ground and back up into the air again for someone else to try to take a grab at it.
There are just too many players and too many games at play simultaneously. I’ve learned over the years to trust my instincts. And my instincts are telling me that most if not all those players are playing very dirty games. I do not want to partake in those dirty games in any way. The results of those games have been devastating for our economy, our security, and our very lives. I have seen no way forward for ordinary people like me other than to refrain from engaging with these dirty game players and to focus, instead, on keeping my family safe, educated, aware, and alive. My philosophy has been: let us ordinary Egyptians focus on making Egypt a better place at the grassroots level. Let’s focus on doing our jobs and teaching our children well.
I tried to keep this positive attitude for as long as possible. I lost most hope on June 30 when I felt that all the voting I did over the previous three years was for naught. I lost more hope over the two weeks that followed as even more Egyptians died in ugly and questionable clashes. And now, as Egypt’s army head calls to the people of Egypt to take to the streets this Friday – THE EGYPTIAN ARMY IS CALLING FOR THE PEOPLE TO TAKE TO THE STREETS!! – to give him a mandate to “combat terrorism”, I feel myself plunging into a deep dark hole along with the rest of the country.
In our media, we hear so much talk about a “national dialogue”. Whether that is happening or not is not really relevant. Nothing has obviously come of it anyway. But another national dialogue of sorts is happening on social media. And it isn’t pretty. I, for example, have friends on Facebook who want Morsi back. I have other friends who took part in the June 30 protests to depose him. I have yet other friends who, like me, despised Morsi but did not want him deposed by the army but by means of a national referendum. I have friends who are protesting on the streets with the “pro-Morsi”/ “pro-legitimacy” supporters. I have friends who continue to protest against them. I have friends who support the army taking over the country and others who are against it. I have friends who participated in the June 30 protests who are happy the army took over and others who also protested on June 30 but are completely against the fact that the army took over.
Every single one of those friends, myself included, is passionate about their point of view. We all express ourselves with much emotion. Sometimes we understand where the others are coming from but we disagree. Most of the time we just can’t understand each other. Mostly we talk AT each other rather than WITH each other.
I have frequently felt that I wish I didn’t know what many of my friends thought about the current events in Egypt or where they stand. I have felt let down by so many of them. I know that many of my friends feel the same about me. Sometimes it feels like they are taking their positions blindly without properly thinking them through. Sometimes it feels that hatred of “the other” has blinded some of my friends to what the best route is to take to make Egypt a better place.
I feel very insecure about Egypt’s future and my future in it. I have family members who live right where some of the clashes have taken place. One of my family members was walking down the street next to their house recently when a man on a motorcycle drove up with a gun in his hand and pointed it back at someone else behind him. This was right in the middle of the day. My children’s school is very close to much of the recent clashes.
What am I to do? How can I keep my family safe? Will we all be able to get through what is happening in Egypt without losing friendships or without losing the lives of our friends?
We are at a very crucial point in our country’s history. Every single action we take has the potential of having a long-lasting impact on our country that is not necessarily in the direction we had originally hoped for. It is because so many Egyptians realize this that we are emotional, dramatic, and emphatic about what needs to be done. Yet we are all so divided. And all the while, dirty games are being played by dirty players. And through our divisiveness they are winning.
Where is our country going? Where are WE taking it?