Egypt


For my post on the Arab youth views of democracy, click here.

The Library of Congress has a very nice website with online resources regarding its collection of Near Eastern materials.

Time Magazine has a photographic essay on “Exploring the Mawlids of Egypt.”

I have been wondering for some time if there is any profession in the world more disgraceful and pathetic than that of being a politician. I realize that there have been and are decent people that get elected to public office and even some good intentioned folk who gain power through other means. I am also aware that every profession has its crazies and I have known my fair share of academics who fit that characterization. But two things came across my Facebook radar today that are too absurd not to call for a commentary. One is an elected official, the Tea Party Wunderkind Tom Cotton, who in only a few months appears to have been drinking something far stronger than the tea of the party that elected him. Given his fast start out of the gate of congress, I am tempted to think he signed a Hollywood movie contract before he ran for office. Perhaps Arnold has already been pegged to play him. Cotton has been having a ball acting like a boll weevil on a Fox News feeding frenzy. Managing to convince 40-odd fellow senators to sign on to a letter that is in some sense an act of treason for anyone who does care about the Constitution was certainly an opening act hard to duplicate. Our allies are surely excited to know that one section of our government has little intention of honoring what the president is authorized to do before he even does it.

But more pathetic than this silly letter, which surely must frighten Iran into accepting everything a tea partyer might dream up, is his Rambo attitude towards his fellow citizens, assuming he considers a large portion (perhaps that percentage noted by Romney in the last election) citizens. I can see the logic here. The bulk of our military today relies on poorer individuals, lots of Hispanics and Blacks. So if we increase the military he must think we will get these potential criminals off the streets where the white folk live. As for those who do not enlist or who return to discover there are few decent jobs for war veterans (unless they are rightwing enough to run for congress), we will obviously need a lot more prisons to hold them all. Perhaps if we invade another country (Iran or some evil state like that) we could set up a penal colony and deport the unwanted. I am sure a select committee in congress could fashion a comprehensive bill defining who deserves to stay in America and who should be sent packing. I can see a possible motto for the act: “America, leave it now whether you love it or not because we hate you.” The list could start by deporting anyone who ever received food stamps and that would make it easier to close down the Food Stamp program.

But then perhaps I am being unfair. If al-Qaida allies with the Mexican drug lords, then we will see shariah law west of the Pecos. If East Coast liberals continue to push for gay marriage (and the Presbyterian Church USA just moved to perform gay marriages), then our population will decline so drastically that the Republicans will never have a chance to rule the country into the ground forever. Then there are those hippies in San Francisco who need to be weeded out (same goes for Coloradans and all those other psychedelic states). If we start the draft again (I remember how popular it was when I was of draft age but I think it would be better to have it run by annual income rather than birth date to make sure only the lower class goes off to fight), then these druggies can go off somewhere, kill our enemies (which are everywhere) and get high all they want on the drugs overseas. We could send more to Afghan and give them first dibs on the poppy fields.

Then there is Egypt. It seems that a notorious belly dancer wants to run for parliament. I think there is no fear that she would harbor any sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood. One of her music videos could be a rather effective campaign message. Imagine a politician who can shake her belly and not just fill it up with bribes. The world needs more female politicians for sure, so who would not support this candidate.

So who should be a politician? It seems that the more bizarre you are, the more incentive there is to run for office. But I think I have been asking the wrong question. The real question is who should be a voter that elects politicians? If the majority of those elected is a representative sample, then it may be that no one should vote. Sorry Athens, but democracy is just too dangerous to promote any more. Now with Cotton in congress and Sama al-Masri attempting to dangle both her zaina in Sisi’s newly formed Egyptian parliament, the new model for government should be Sparta. Hail Leonidas.

The first Egyptian silent film apparently appeared in 1923 under the title Barsoum Looking for a Job
برسوم يبحث عن وظيفة
It is now on Youtube. It has poor, hungry Egyptians, lots of fighting, a dinner party and a drunken ending…


Graphic images of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, an Egyptian activist who was shot and killed at a peaceful rally in Cairo on Saturday, sowed outrage on social networks;
Al Youm Al Saabi /Reuters

There is a phrase that sometimes says it all: “All hell has broken loose.” For anyone who knows the history of humanity, this is a sentiment that could be offered in any age. There is still “hell to pay” for some people on every corner of the globe. And it is not necessary to wait until “hell freezes over” to see or experience “hell on earth.” You can take your pick of hellish acts just in the last few days: a beheading here, an assassination there, a drone bomb here, a cluster bomb there, a suicide bomber here, a rape there, and the list goes on. The world’s attention was focused for the media minutes of a top story just a couple days ago when Yemen’s President Hadi and his entire government resigned, followed by the death of the aging Saudi monarch and leaving the Paris bombings in the dust (to be dusted off as needed ad infinitum by the Islamophobic surge sweeping Europe and shariahphobic America). Now there is the photo above: a woman protesting the abuse of an abusive dictatorial takeover in Cairo, a woman bringing flowers to the victims of a previous killing spree.

Look at this picture and you realize that talk of hell in the hereafter is not a comfort for those of us who find hell in the here and now. If an evil person will “get his” (I don’t know of that many women who create the kind of hell going on hourly and daily in the Middle East today) one day, it does not breathe life back into those whose lives have been taken away. Look at this picture and tell yourself this could be your mother, your sister, your wife or your best friend. Look at this picture and realize that this could be you. You may be far from this violence, this unleashed hellfire, this madness, this perversion of every positive value religions teach. You can look away, of course. You can see it as just another picture of which there are now millions, blood-soaked body parts unrecognizable. You can walk away, shaking your head, saying it can’t happen where you are. It may not, but it will continue whether you care or not. It is true that your tears will not raise the dead and protect the innocent. But shedding tears is the best way to respond to such terrible spilling of blood and still live with yourself as a human connected to other humans.

If I believed the hype of a literal hell and lake of fire, I would hope that those who commit acts of hell on earth would be greeted with automatic entry into the imagined hell of the hereafter. But those who do such despicable acts to fellow human beings are already chained to the hell they create for others. And the hell on earth is the only one that matters on earth. Hell is not in the hereafter; it is too powerful here and now to need a future.

Dear Husni,
I had no idea you were so poor. Only 25 million stashed outside Egypt? What happened to all the millions you took in over the years? Was your wife like Imelda Marcos, buying way too many shoes? Of course I will be glad to help you get access to that money. After all, you stole it fair and square. And Sisi can siphon off as much as he wants, now that the Brothers are gone. I know how much you have suffered, so I will not charge you anything for helping you. Some of my best friends are Egyptian and I know they would help me if I ever needed someone to get 25 million out of the bank. By the way, your English has really improved. Did you take lessons in prison? Or did you use Google Translate? You did not mention which bank your funds are in. Someone told me it was in the same offshore bank as the savings of Mitt Romney, but I find that hard to believe. I am really honored that you chose me out of the millions of people getting spam emails to help you. I am sorry it has taken so long but your email went into my Junk folder. Can you imagine that. I am really glad I found it. Just send me you bank name, account number and password and I will sure do you justice.

Yours sincerely,

John Doe


The Prince of Wales and group at the Pyramids, Giza, Cairo, March 1862 Royal Collection Trust / (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Prints from first photographed royal tour go on show at Buckingham Palace. Click here to see ten images.

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