I was a naïve young woman when I arrived in Cairo in June of 1983. Of course, there was no telling my then 23 year-old self that. I was already somewhat worldly and had just left communist Hungary to go on this little adventure with complete strangers. I was invited as a guest of the Egyptian government and was going to see the great pyramids!
I got on a plane with a decorated general, an Egyptian Jewish refugee
who had not seen his country since being forced to flee to Italy (and
subsequently ended up in Hungary) during the Nasser era of the mid 50's and a
man of great intellect, a quiet voice, expensive tastes and finely tailored
suits. In retrospect, I have often wondered if he was an arms dealer.
I never said I was very smart when it came to asking questions.
I guess I'm asking them now.
I boarded that airplane in blind faith, flew for what seemed like eternity, arrived in the middle of the oppressively humid night, was whisked off the tarmac in an armored Mercedes limo without so much as going through any sort of passport control and found myself in a swanky hotel setting up shop as a writer without a country. With no real clue as to what I was doing there, I managed to pull off this all expenses paid gig and live to tell about it. The holy month of Ramadan began a few days after my arrival and for the next six months, in a crash course of sensory overload, Cairo was what I called home.
As I read the above paragraph, I can't help but wonder what thoughts were going through that pea brain of mine. I was no wiser in making that decision then, than our own government was years later in deciding to invade Afghanistan. And just like our military, I certainly had not considered how I was going to survive the terrain or planned any sort of exit strategy.
I must have been a typical dumb American after all. That I made it out of there alive without harm or foul (and made money!) astounds me to this day still. I was equal parts stupid and lucky.
Now that I have nearly twice as much life experience in me than I did back then, while everyone is still dissecting the SOTU speech, I can't help but think we (the collective dumb Americans; myself included) are once again missing many matters of greater importance in the world arena than few will football in a matter of weeks. I won't be one of them.
We are failing to see the current protests and violent demonstrations that are taking place and how they will have an effect on much more than the people of Egypt. The political climate is the ball that most of us are not keeping our eyes on because we are too busy thinking about the Super Bowl.
We may think it is of little concern to us because Egypt is over there and doesn't really have anything to do with us over here. We may believe that things will escalate and then settle down and everything will return to "normal", once the protestors get put in their proper places (jail, anyone?). We may also believe that this is nothing more than an inconvenient, minor uprising, equivalent to a burning match in an ashtray as opposed to a raging fire in the belly of millions of civilians not only in Egypt, but elsewhere. I can't tell you why (because I'm not a political pundit, historian or scholar of such things) but intuitively, I believe we would be wrong.
Everything from Obama's legacy and Hillary Clinton's future may very well rest on and be determined by how America reacts and responds (or doesn't) to the unfolding new old world order that is about to play out in censored reports and photographs in the coming days. I would suggest following Stellaa for sharp analysis and commentary as she is Egyptian-born, has greater access to other media and better skill to explain what is really happening and perhaps even how it will effect us all in the future. We could all go to school on her so that we are better prepared students for the exams that will come later on. My instincts tell me that we are about to be tested as a people. Again.
I can't help but picture Bill Clinton's old 1992 campaign War Room where "It's the Economy, Stupid" was scrawled out on the whiteboard to keep everyone on the same page. And even though this is once again the sad case here in America, what we're about to witness in Cairo is about much more than that. How it will unravel, be explained and what the long-term impact will be remains to be seen.
I just wish I were as smart today as I might become 20 years from now to know the reasons why.
We have the right to remain silent.
We often are.