Letter From New York February 12, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

As I wait for my train, I am doing what I have done most of the day today and most days for the last 18 days – keeping up with the tumultuous events in Egypt. For days, everyone in the office has paused as they pass the two big screen televisions to see what was unfolding in Tahrir Square in Cairo, the heart of the revolution which has shaken Mubarak from his perch where has been sitting comfortably for the last thirty years. No one thought this would come but it has, a cascading of events started in Tunisia, a restlessness flooding the Mid-East, challenging the status quo. Two long reigning autocrats have been toppled; serious changes in other countries have also resulted, preemptive measures taken by those in power to enable them to sustain their positions, at least for now.

Like so many I have followed this revolution on television and on the net, wishing in some ways that I was there so that I could feel the beat of the streets, though I know that wouldn’t necessarily be safe. Reporters were roughed up and arrested; a Google executive was detained, one who had organized protests via Facebook. Some died but an amazingly small number it seemed, though there have been reports that the numbers have been minimized.

Like Tunisia, this was a revolution propelled along by Facebook, Twitter and the connectivity of the net and new technologies. In both Tunisia and in Egypt the Army did not turn upon the people, for the most part maintaining order but not firing upon the crowds.

All week I have found myself contemplative. Each and every one of the people in Tahrir Square has a father and a mother, may be brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, living individuals with families and friends swarming together to gain an end, following the siren song of tweets to a destiny they could not clearly determine though they were abundantly clear about what they wanted, and eventually got, Mubarak gone.

I thought of the nameless people who are part of the news, the hundreds of thousands in Tahrir Square, the dozens killed in Pakistan by a teenage boy suicide bomber and the dozen or so that were killed in a Baghdad incident. I woke up more than once this week to the radio announcing the deaths of people in bombings in this place or the other, people I would never know but individuals who had loves and hopes, were loved in return and are now gone in a blinding flash of light and pain. The dispassionate voices that announce the passing of the nameless victims help us not realize these were people like us, who got up in the morning but did not get to go home that night.

I am not sure why all these nameless people have been so much on my mind; is it that if there were an attack on the subway in New York and if that were the way I met my end, I would be one of those nameless victims in some announcer’s report? Or is it that in staring at the images of the massive crowds in Tahrir Square there were moments when the cameras did focus on the face of one person or another and I would find myself wondering what their life was like?

Whatever the reason, I have felt a singularity with my fellow man. I am concerned about what comes next in Egypt, the heart of the Mid-East and a very singular country. There are those who fear this revolution will open the door to radical Islam though that fear did not prevent Egyptian Christian Copts from taking themselves to Tahrir Square to stand with their Egyptian Muslim comrades. Time will tell whether this will evolve into an Islamic Revolution as opposed to an Egyptian Revolution.

But whatever happens, it will have reminded me that I share much with all the other human beings around the world if only that I, too, am a finite creature with hopes and loves caught in the sweep of history being made.

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