bearing witness to egypt, to ourselves

Go read zunguzungu’s eloquent I have no words, but all I have is words

I want to remind myself, publicly, that the closest thing to an honorable choice that American citizens like me have is to bear witness and solidarity to the incredibly thing that is happening right now, and to do so as humbly and reverently as we are able to do. The world is changing before us, and we will need new words to describe it if we are to be true to the best parts of ourselves, and if we are to be of any use to a world that we might still find a way to be of use to. We need to learn to listen more clearly. We have corrupted the words we were so proud of inheriting, words like “democracy,” and we need to be a lot better to learn the new words that are being coined right now, in places of which even our own ignorance is something of an unknown quantity to us, and in voices that speak, for example, in languages we don’t understand.

I asked myself last night, why do I write so much? And as if in answer, I saw this post. Yes. Bearing witness. It is all I can do, and I can only encourage my fellow citizens to do so as well — and to take a good hard look at my country at what has gone so wrong with it.

An absolutely amazing collection of pictures (a couple of graphic ones):
The Egypt Protests. I direct you to picture #80, which should be to our shame — tear gas canisters MADE IN THE USA. Is this the legacy we should allow for our country? Why do we make and export these things? Just consider this information: Pepper spray and tear gas.

Also, Women of Egypt, I salute you. You have been in the middle of the protests, you have kissed the enemy, you have tweeted (Mona Eltahawy, and so many others), your protest is that of Egypt.



This article from Ha’aretz shocked me: Arise ye workers from your slumber. I was entirely prepared, I confess, to read something gloomy — either about the prospect of Israel losing the strongest regional ally it’s had for the last 30 years or worry over whether the “arabspring” will spill over into Gaza. Instead, it put its finger directly on schizophrenic nature of the U.S. in the Middle East:

If you’re a Saudi king who buys billions of dollars of American weapons, you’re pro-Western and therefore entitled to continue to rule a country without a parliament, one where thieves’ hands are amputated and women aren’t allowed to drive. If you’re an Egyptian president who supports the peace process, you’re pro-Western and have permission to continue to impose emergency rule in your country, jail journalists and opposition members, and fix elections.

And what if you’re the ruler of Qatar? There’s a problem classifying you. On the one hand, Qatar hosts the largest American military base in the Middle East. But it has close relations with Iran and Syria. On the one hand, its ruler promotes democratic values and its foreign minister occasionally meets with top Israeli officials. But it nurtures Al Jazeera.

Of course, we love Al Jazeera when it shows us exclusive pictures of mass demonstrations, discloses secret documents, and is open to interviewing Israeli and Jewish spokespeople. But we hate it because it covers Hamas and Hezbollah’s successes. The huge challenge of categorizing Qatar shows that the terms pro-Western and moderate have no connection to the universal values the West seeks to export. They only represent the degree of the fear and the threat posed by the values the anti-Westerners send to the West.

Yes. The U.S. props up dictators that will do our dirty work for us — using the money and tools we give them to do so. We started out in South America and moved on to the Middle East. As we lost South America, so are we losing the Middle East. I want to see us form actual, mutually respectful alliances, but I don’t know when or how that will happen.

And all of a sudden, into the whirlwind, into the era of certainty and the lexicon in which the region’s countries are neatly packaged, the Arab “street” erupts, a sophisticated street. It uses “our” methods: Facebook and Twitter – the tools of democracy we have invented – to present us with a situation of disorder. How do you defend yourself against this? This Arab street has already used these tools to depose Tunisian President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali, and its ideas have gone viral. What if it manages to establish democracy in Egypt? In Yemen?

I, also, have no words.

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One Response to bearing witness to egypt, to ourselves

  1. Laura says:

    Made in US tear gas (and the canisters) have been killing people in Gaza and the OPT, too.