In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful
“Where are you from?” I know that the question, many times, is asked innocently. The questioner is curious about my nationality, and there is nothing wrong with that. Yet, I must admit that, sometimes, the question does annoy me a little. I mean, I have no accent, and I sound just like a Midwesterner, so from where else would I be other than the United States?
Yet, for a long period of my life, if I was asked that question, I would say: “Egypt.” If people asked me, “What are you?” I would reply: “Egyptian.”
Not now, however.
If people ask me my nationality, I will say, “My parents are from Egypt,” or “My ancestry is Egyptian.” But, I see myself as 100% American. In the past, if I would introduce myself, I would say: “From Egypt” to other Muslims. But now, I proudly say, “United States.” My people are the American people. My country is the United States. My home is right here in this great land of ours. It’s a long story as to how I got here from there, and maybe, one day I will tell it. But, suffice it to say, I am 100% American through and through.
Yet, I cannot erase my ancestry. I cannot abandon the fact that my parents, and their parents, and their parents before them, all came from Egypt. Even though I am proud (and grateful) to be American, I am not ashamed of my roots. I proudly say that I am an American of Egyptian ancestry.
And after witnessing the uprising in Egypt over the last nine days, I have never been more proud to share that ancestry with the people of Egypt.
I still have quite a few family members living in Egypt, and I am still worried for their safety. I pray that they, and everyone else in Egypt and all over the world, is safe and sound from the acts of criminal thugs and barbarians. But, watching the Egyptian people finally standing up and reclaiming their long-suppressed rights from the clutches of a criminal dictator has been awe-inspiring.
At long last, the Egyptian people has said, “Enough is enough,” and they have shown no fear, even in the face of clubs, batons, water sprays, and even gunfire. Nothing is going to stop the Egyptian people from taking the rights that they deserve.
We always knew that the leadership in Egypt was corrupt and horrific. Yet, judging by their actions in the face of these overwhelmingly peaceful protests, I can see that they are little more than criminal thugs. When the people were not cowered in the face of a brutal police crackdown, one that was not deserved at all, the authorities decided to withdraw the police from the streets and let the criminals loose and create havoc. That is the going theory, according to many sources inside and outside of Egypt.
The people then, seeing that their leadership has once again abandoned them, took matters into their own hands literally and figuratively, forming local neighborhood militias to protect themselves and their neighbors from the barbarians. Those neighborhood groups included members of my own extended family.
After days of protests, the city of Cairo itself became strewn with trash. Forget about city services…they are no where to be found, thanks to the authorities. The people, again, volunteer their time and help clean up the streets. They have no concern about being paid…they want to help build their country and beautify their city.
In the immediate aftermath of the protest and the ensuing chaos, some vicious, depraved thugs broke into the Egyptian Antiquity Museum in Cairo and vandalized and stole some precious ancient Egyptian artifacts. It brought back memories of what happened in Baghdad in 2003, in the wake of the U.S. invasion (as our troops looked on…), when the Baghdad museum was sacked and looted.
The Egyptian people, once again, stood up and formed human chains around the museum, to protect their ancient heritage and the world’s heritage that was located in that museum. Seeing that almost brought tears to my eyes. There are tanks now in front of the Pyramids at Giza to protect them from any loon that thinks they are ripe for attack and destruction.
As each day passes, more and more people are speaking up and getting their voices heard for the first time. They are finally standing up to the forces of brutality, forces that governed their lives with utter contempt and disdain for over three decades. These forces helped themselves while letting the people suffer. These forces plundered the wealth and treasure of Egypt and let the people fight for the remaining scraps. And if anyone spoke out about it, they would be detained, tortured, and even killed under a “State of Emergency” law.
Well, God willing, this will be no more.
The Egyptian people are finally saying, “No.” They are telling President Mubarak that they will not leave Liberation Square or any other street, but that he must leave. They are crying out for the things that we here in the West take for granted most of the time: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. And we in the West should support them, not the despots who we claim bring “stability.”
We will achieve true stability when we support the aspirations and freedoms of people everywhere. We must learn that and start leading by example.
Yes, I am an American and proud of it. The American people are my people. But, I am also an American of Egyptian descent, and I have never been more proud to say that than in these early weeks and months of 2011. May God bless America and her people, and may God bless Egypt, her people, and may He grant her people the freedom, liberty, and dignity they so richly deserve.