First Things to Do When Returning to America After Living in Egypt

1. hug parents

2. engulf the fresh air

3. switch into shorts

4. feed transatlantic-travelled cat

5.raise voice

Wearing shorts again.
Wearing shorts again.

I have not written here in a significant chunk of time. I was spending my last days in Egypt consumed with work and transition. I was also living in a little fog of fear. The bombs in Cairo were not scary for us. For me, what was nerve-wracking was the rate Egypt was becoming too seemingly safe and stable at the cost of the rights of the people.

My alarm drooped into inanition.

The weather hit a dusty, daily 100-110 degrees.

Life spun me hard.

I took a blog break.

Today is Monday, August 10. I have been back in the States for 6 days. I have spent each of those 6 days in shorts. When the jet lag wore off, the world offered me five events: Jon Stewart’s goodbye, the celebration for the New Suez Canal, first GOP presidential debate, the70th anniversary of the US atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, and the anniversary of the massacre at Rabaa.

Yup, we definitely all have to be a Jon Stewart now. A Bassem Youssef. Vigilant of bullsh*t. A master of satire. Ever increasing our intellect, empathy, and ability to give and take a joke in a complex world.

“Be careful when you blindly follow the masses. Sometimes the m is silent.” – anonymous

The New Suez Canal project was declared as a bright achievement in internal investment and development for Egypt. Many intelligent articles have been written in both critique and support of it. The fervor of the nationalism became awkward during the launch event including accidental Yemeni flags, the Game of Thrones soundtrack, a civilian president back in his publicly-retired military garb, and giant inflatable bears in Tahrir Square.

Photo by Mada Masr
Photo by Mada Masr

A young boy who will never serve in the military because of his childhood cancer had his dream come true, accompanying El Sisi in uniform on a yacht. Egyptians are out seizing the State-sanctioned window of opportunity to gather and party in public. The flag industry boomed once more. Egypt partied strong in its heritage and hopes.

This celebration hit just days before the two-year anniversary of when a thousand plus Egyptian protestors were killed on the streets in the neighborhood ofRabaa by a Sisi-led transitional government/military. The signs in Rabaa were changed last week to now be in honor of the prosecutor who was assassinated this summer. No one is allowed to remember Rabaa.

Supporting the opposition (Muslim Brotherhood) has become a jail sentence and often a death sentence in Egypt. As in the times of Mubarak, the MB is officially declared a terrorist organization and is banned. There is no middle ground. Any support for their rights leads to a label of terrorist. There are bombs and attacks, yes, but there are also mass trials, rushed trials, hundreds sentenced to death in one sweep on the thinnest dust of evidence. Folks are disappearing.

When I had earlier brought up the issue of Blackface on the Cairo Opera stage; I was called racist myself because I did not want Black people depicted onstage, and rumors spread that I was a Muslim Brotherhood supporter because I even dared to question a State-run organization and tried to make them look bad with my unnecessarily accusations and lies. Those closest to me thought it was unsafe to start a petition or a demonstration because the authorities call for the full list of participants and their addresses. While I like to think I am courageous in standing up when I see something wrong, I found that causing a stink, in another country, at this particular time, was simply not worth it.

I know that not everyone killed at Rabaa was a terrorist, and I wish to remember their lives. Rabaa Story is taking on that initiative in a big way. There are also television stations off the State grid with devoted coverage. I hope people tune in and honor the innocent victims to the same degree as people celebrated a canal. My hope is for positive pluralism both there and here.

Back in mid-Michigan, I went to the county fair this weekend.

Saginaw County Fair
Saginaw County Fair

During the tough truck competition, one driver proudly flew a large Conservative flag and was nicknamed the “rebel.” He won and was widely applauded. From my seat in the grandstands, I shouted that this was a disgrace and booed him.

I went home and intentionally turned on Fox News for the first time in my life to see that ridiculous Trumped debate. Now that I am back in America, I am going to enjoy wearing my shorts and raising my voice.

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