I’m struggling to make sense of Egypt and Egyptians. I’m really really struggling. I’ve reached a point
where I bury memories so deep inside of me that most recent events in Egypt are a mere blur in my head. People talk about the various huge post-January 25, 2011 demonstrations in which hundreds have been killed and all I can find in my memories is a hazy image of me sitting in front of a laptop or a television set in a complete state of incomprehension. I hear the names of people in jail or of people who have been killed and all I can say is, “Wait. Which one is that?”
Being away from Egypt for just over a year now has been a small blessing. I needed to break away from it all. I was suffocating. But just when I think I’m pushing through what I’m sure is post-traumatic stress disorder from the hundreds of events that have happened since the revolution, something new happens in Egypt and I feel like someone has a huge, hairy hand on my head, shoving my whole body into a crouch in a small, dirty, smelly sack.
I can’t breathe.
Why is Egypt the way it is? Why are so many Egyptians the way they are? Why can’t we have normal problems? And a normal life? Why has it become so commonplace for Egyptians to be killed by the police, the army, thugs, and neglect? How is it that there is no justice for the innocent while the guilty get away with their crimes scot-free? What is wrong with us?
Yesterday night, over 20 people were killed trying to get into a football match in Cairo. The least I can say is that the police, rather than exhibit effective crowd control/management, almost literally sent more than 20 people to their deaths. It’s almost as if they killed them to teach them a lesson. Is this surprising? Not one bit. The January 25 revolution started on Police Day against police brutality.
My brain feels like it is in a complete state of paralysis. This bombardment is just never-ending. Gaza; Charlie Hebdo; ISIS executions; the Jordanian pilot; Mubarak and his sons found not guilty; NO ONE held accountable for the hundreds of deaths in the revolution; life-sentences given to Egyptians who demonstrated against an anti-demonstration law; kidnappings and armed robberies in Cairo; Syria; Iraq; Libya; Yemen… It never ends.
That’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is the general and all-encompassing ignorance, intolerance, bigotry, and accusations of treason from one side or of apostasy from the other. It’s like Egypt and the entire Arab region has turned into a huge cesspool.
Why can’t we be NORMAL? Why can’t we have normal lives? Why can’t we have normal police? Why can’t we have a normal, democratic government? Why can’t we have normal fellow citizens? Why can’t things be NORMAL?
I’m sitting on a couch, looking out of my window onto a beautiful, sunny, green meadow in northern England. But I’m traumatized by what is happening in my country thousands of kilometers away. I can see normal. But I can’t live it even though I am in it. I can’t live it until my own country gets it.
What was it that I read the other day?
Anglo-American poet W. H. Auden once claimed that while, “he was not always thinking about Iceland … he was never not thinking about Iceland.”
I’m almost always thinking about Egypt. And I’m never not thinking about it.