January 29, 2011

The chant of the square
They only show us pictures taken at night

Inside, too, is dark
Blackness like a shield protects the inert forms
Wrapped in ancient linen

Glass spreads across the cobblestones
Like tiny spiders breaking
Out of their mother’s sack

The glass of the finger-smudged displays
Tremble in fear
And impatience

A young officer holds a handgun
In both hands
And swings it left, right, left, up…

Three men, drunk on revolution and pints of Stella
Forget that their ancestors
Meant something to someone

Thousands kneel in the streets
Praying to a God among gods
To restore that which they had long ago

Three men— elements or enemies?
Decapitate the Cause
And exit the museum

The current conflict in Egypt has piqued both my political and historical interests. I am challenged by the issues at hand. The US government has supported Mubarak and his administration for years and he has been able to maintain a sense of order that is rare in the Middle East. However, this order has come at the price of numerous freedoms. The revolutionaries in the streets are demanding justice and political freedom (the country has been under Emergency Law for over 40 years). Mubarak has been the only candidate for the presidency since he began his first term in 1981. Obviously, this is not a very democratic way of conducting affairs.

Ultimately, it seems to come down to the question of which is more valuable: order or justice? And can there be justice without order? Mubarak has declared that he will not run again for the presidency. What kind of leader can we expect to be voted into office?

An issue closely tied to this political affair has also been on my mind recently. On January 29, vandals broke into the Egyptian Museum. They left a wake of destruction, but one move in particular holds very powerful symbolism: they decapitated two mummies. I simply cannot fathom why anyone desirous of positive reform in their homeland would desecrate their own dead, their own cultural icons. As an archaeologist, it quite literally hurts my heart to hear of such a thing, and it makes it even more difficult to support the revolution.