- By Sarah Naguib
In the aftermath of what seems to be known now as just "the movie," a young man is in prison for being an "atheist," while another has been sentenced to six years for offending Islam and the president. More footage of protestors being beaten by the police, more pictures of clouds of tear gas hovering over Downtown Cairo…. Really, little has changed… Or perhaps there has been no change at all.
To clarify, everything that follows is my own. I am not speaking for anyone, I am not claiming I know what’s going on with others, I am simply writing what’s on my mind, no one else’s.
I participated in the revolution — whatever that means. I, together with some friends, walked the walk on January 25th, and again on the 26th, and the 27th, and the 28th. You know the rest. On Friday the 28th, after six hours of street battles across the country, we saw a police-free sunset. The revolutionaries began their sit-in at the square, and stood their grounds until Mubarak stepped down. I fought to make it to the square to deliver medicine and what not on the 3rd, after having been up all night crying my eyes out, as I watched my friends, and everyone else, fight for their lives against what was clearly a government-orchestrated ambush.
I remember screaming at my parents so many times during those 18 days. Screaming that they were selfish. That they do not understand. That they should understand what we’re fighting for, something they never did, and instead of fighting us they should fight with us. I remember guilt tripping them, telling them that people are dying in that square while they are comfortable in their homes. I also recall my mother blaming me for the stagnation, for "ruining" the country.
One night the scales tipped in our favor, and so many joined us. We celebrated. We even took the credit. We were so proud, and we were congratulated left and right. Our sentiments toward the martyrs were those of gratitude and bittersweet happiness. We were thankful, and we were thanked.
Today, the truth is, so many of us are depressed. We are feeling guilty and an unbearable amount of guilt. Our feelings about our martyrs turned to utter sadness. "What a waste. What a shame. What was it all for?"
We started off with messages of encouragement to those who showed signs of fear, reassuring them that everything will work out. That now we have a chance to be part of the government that was hijacked from us for years. That — despite all the signs pointing to a Muslim Brotherhood government — we were certain that we would make it into parliament, and make it strong.
Sometimes, jokingly, my father says, "Good job, you got us the Brotherhood." He says it with a smile, and if my reaction is not a joke-appropriate one, he reassures me that it had to happen, that things will never be the same. That come what may, what we did was brave and had to be done. My dad might be smiling, but I still look down, and feel that guilt. It’s not regret. I am proud of every moment and decision I made to be part of this. It’s just sadness.
Who can silence these creeping thoughts and self-asked questions: "What have we done? We single-handedly gave this country away to a different bunch of thieves, a gluttonous militia, out for its own agenda. Not for any of the things that echoed in that square. And even worse, we had a chance to fight them and we failed. We didn’t organize, we didn’t unite, we didn’t win those elections, and we didn’t seize the moment we’ve been waiting for, though it came more than once."
To those who didn’t believe, don’t think we aren’t feeling like shit. Don’t for one moment think we don’t see it.
But still, don’t torture your kids, the ones who took part. Don’t blame them. Don’t hold it against them. They were so brave, they were determined, they were strong and faithful to what they believed in. They put everything on the line, and took a chance, the one your generation failed to take.
No one needs to blame us, our guilt is more than sufficient. But instead of blaming us, join the fight. Must you either congratulate or berate? Must you always just be a spectator? Join the fight. Because — despite all the guilt and the stress and the weighing burden and the loneliness and the confusion — we are still trying. We haven’t given up yet and we are here to fight. We realize that, as a generation, this is how it will be for us. Our youth has been dedicated to this, and our life will never be the same or normal.
Journalist Sarah Naguib took part in the 18-day Egyptian uprising in early 2011. Many of her tweets from Tahrir Square are featured in the book Tweets from Tahrir. She currently works as a social media director in Cairo.
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Dispatch |