For the first time in a very long time, I’ve gotten a real taste of what it means to have Egyptian pride – and it feels whole, and real, and beautiful. I’ve never been very nationalistic. In fact, over the years, I’ve been rather critical and hard on Egypt. I just saw a nation that basked in the glory of the past, while seemingly oblivious (or in denial) to the perils of the present (some of which were self-inflicted). I think it took me a very long time to begin to grasp the psychology of it all…the years of humiliation and oppression, and what that does to a people – how it deadens one’s spirit, how it cultivates apathy, and fear and promotes serving one’s own interests over the greater good of the masses. When describing what it means to be free, a friend of mine said it best when she addressed all the “party poopers” out there, “Freedom is when people stop giving a damn whether they live or die as long as they say what they feel in their hearts. It doesn’t matter much whether they’re “really free yet”. What matters is that they are free from FEAR. And that, no one could have given them except God. And He did. So be happy or shut it.” (love you mons…last line was classic you :P)
Fear has an amazing effect on the human psyche. It brought on a culture that had little respect and pride for itself, rather than the generosity and kindness I’d always heard of. To be fair, it was always still there, lurking in the background, but there was so much other “muck” that it often didn’t have a chance to shine through on the individual and societal level.
Egypt actually gained its independence some 20+ years before South Korea, yet it’s amazing to see how far South Korea has come in the 20th & 21st centuries, with what can be argued, fewer resources at their disposal, than Egypt. Egypt had the potential to be great (and it still does), but has been suffocated from its true potential by oppressive regimes for far too long. It was painful to see a culture so rich in history, art, architecture -angry and apathetic – living in disarray and disorganization, and constantly at the mercy of who they know, and how much they could bribe them. It’s demoralizing. Perhaps if you keep a nation down long enough, you hope this will become a way of life, distracting them from the real concerns that should be at the forefront of any nation. And for a long time – it worked.
This is the start of a new era. I think one of the things I am MOST proud of is despite EVERYTHING, protesters maintained their resolve towards non-violence. Their sheer determination and dedication, despite some harrowing odds, truly blew me away. Perhaps my favorite moment was pictures of Christians protecting Muslims while they prayed, and Muslims protecting Christians while they held mass. It was beautiful, and overwhelming, and goes against every stereotype we’re told about Muslims and Arabs – barbaric,violent, intolerant. People were organized. People took pride in their streets and their communities…cleaning and protecting them. Their inward pride manifested itself in the way people FINALLY began caring about the outward aesthetics…what their nation looks like, how their brother is treated, how their neighbor is living. I had never witnessed something like that before…getting over differences and egos, for the greater good. It was a nation coming alive – and it was breathtaking…
Today is a great day…and I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder. Egypt has set a precedent…that non-violence is actually more effective and useful at uniting people and bringing change than terroism…that nonviolence can breed change, that it CAN be done, and dictators around the world should take note. Allah does not change the condition of a nation until they take steps to change it themselves. It is through His grace and mercy that all of this was able to be done. People had faith and no longer feared a man – an obstinate aging dictator, but rather put their faith, and love and fear in God alone. How empowering! May other nations under the oppression of dictators follow this example and find victory as well… 🙂