Egypt, forgive my cowardice


To every Egyptian, from wherever you may come, to every man, woman, child, and martyr in Tahrir square that sent shivers through my Arab-hood for 18 days, this is for you.

Being a coward had been the easiest thing to do, until Jan. 25. And I’m not talking about a certain ousted president. I’m not talking about a rather sly torturer. And I’m not talking about plainclothes forces gone-bad for some pocket money.

I am a coward.

Hopelessness, greed, corruption, chaos and fear were not enough to stand in the way of the Egyptian people. Every grain of their sweat was laced with patience, sacrifice, risk, and heart. They came out of it not only having spoken up, but with a full-fledged revolution.

Meanwhile, as I watched religiously through the discomfort of my TV, I suddenly find myself helpless. Utterly useless.

Two dollars a day is the allowance some Egyptians have been forced to endure. Two dollars a day were enough to craft a revolution. A revolution. I can’t say that enough. Revolution.

Two dollars.

I have a journalism degree. I did nothing with it.

This is the revolution that changed everything I knew about Arabs. I had no precedent to help me believe in it, but I did from the start because I know what it means to have Egyptian running through your veins.

But I did nothing.

I recall being possessed for 18 days, constantly playing out whimsical scenarios in my mind of some super hero jumping in and saving the day. When I wasn’t contemplating, I was furious. When I wasn’t furious, I was nothing. I was not here. I was being a coward.

Make no mistake – at no point did I thank my lucky stars that I was away from the “unrest” or that I had the best damn excuse not to be in Tahrir square. On the contrary; that was the only place I wished I could be.

But I didn’t go.

Instead I nervously rocked my legs under my desk, stole distracted peeks at the news, isolated myself and grieved over the ignorance I had come to discover in people with whom I once shared heartfelt laughs. I knew history was in the making, yet I made nothing of it.

Egyptians of courage, persistence and morals, I ask of you to forgive me. In the last 18 days you changed the world as I knew it. You showed me what it means to be Arab, a phrase I laughed off or at least stared at blankly, since as far back as I can remember.

You showed me why it pays off to be resilient, forgiving and eloquent. You showed me that occupations don’t need to happen for change to seep through. You showed me that stability means nothing in the name of corruption and injustice.

You showed me what my grandmother saw in our generation that I never quite understood. An intensely Egyptian woman with an overpowering presence, my grandmother had enough heart to give to every democracy maker in this revolution, had she still been here today. You showed me her heart didn’t give in for nothing.

And I did nothing for you.

My cowardice has already paraded itself before you. There was no excuse not to become a part of this revolution, even if through the best way I knew how: telling your stories.

So I plead before you to forgive me for having used the heavy dent in my chest, engraved in me by a relentless dictator, as a scapegoat. Forgive me for having neglected my obligation to you, to us as Arabs, and to future generations.

I hope it’s not too late to document that on Feb. 11, 2011, I witnessed history and fell to my knees in cathartic joy before a new Egypt. I witnessed the revolution.

One day, when Twitter is obsolete and my children’s children sit in my lap and ask me, “what was the revolution?” I will show them this. I will teach them what it means to earn democracy in the Arab world.

I will confess to them that there will be people who will warn them that “the worst is yet to come,” that “there’s nothing worse than instability” and that “Arabs are the worst people to handle democracy.”

But then I will teach them that the worst thing of all is allowing yourself to settle for less than you deserve, simply because it’s easy.

Egypt, today I proudly wear your revolution on my shoulder. Tomorrow I will proudly pin it to our children’s shoulders.

I vow to no longer be a coward. May your rebuilding begin.


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