Friday Conversation: Egypt

Ra’s: I’m watching the Riots in Cairo on Al Jazeera. It’s just pissing me off …

Loki: Cos the gov’t hired counter protesters?  At least for the most part it’s gone smoothly, plus Obie backed it last night, too.

Ra’s: I just watched it live it was effing Horrible… Basically, he plans on leaving the country in ruins once he leaves .

Loki: I don’t think it’ll happen, there aren’t enough of the police to take on the protesters and the conscripted military will grow a backbone, otherwise the international community will get involved.

Ra’s: I don’t think so. No One Country wants to take a Stand against Muby. So he makes a speech saying if I’m not in control the country will turn to Shit . Then suddenly… Bam you got a fight… I’m sick of the Condemning Speeches from all the Leaders, they need to grow a pair and pick a side.

Loki: what are you talking about? Obie said last night it was time for Mubarak to step aside and let the change happen. Even Israel is saying the change needs to happen. It’s late in the game for them to be endorsing it, but at least the international community is saying the change needs to happen now. The protesters need leadership. I know there were a bunch of them meeting, but they need a plan for what to do next, how to hold the elections they want and who will run in them. To me that’s the scariest part.

Riddler: Well yeah, Mubarak needs to go but who have the protesters decided to follow?  That’s the tough part.  Are they just so angry they’re rioting without thought or do they have a plan?

Loki: they’re not rioting, it’s the police and some other thugs who are doing the rioting. i believe that’s where the police went when they were missing for three days. the protesters, for the most part, haven’t moved. they’re sticking in one spot. but i completely agree with you on the leadership aspect of it. El Barade isn’t charismatic enough to be the first president of the new republic. at least the Muslim Brotherhood are fairly moderate in Egypt and the protesters continually say this isn’t a religious movement.

Ra’s: There’s some idea but it will take time I admit they probably should have had a person in mind but eh those are details and if your Oppressed you just want the Change. If it’s one country to stay out of the conversation… It’s Issy. They should just keep quite. Don’t draw any attention to themselves. Yeah, they’re nervous, but the Anti-Muby folks haven’t had any hate speeches towards Issy… All that could change if they don’t Shut it .

Loki: i disagree. if ever there is a time for Israel to take an active, non-war stance in middle east politics it is now, and they should be doing what they can to support the protesters. a) they share a border with Egypt b) Egypt was one of the only countries there to have an actual peace treaty with them, and one that worked. but yes, they need to do this with a deft hand, they shouldn’t try to put themselves into a position to make demands, they, like the rest of the world, should only be there for support, not influence.

Ra’s: According to Al Jazeera the Quieter Israel is the Better. Since there is no exact party or Group in Charge of this Protest  that levels the playing field for after Muby leaves. What they don’t want is a Group saying  “See  Issy wants to influence and weaken us… Screw the Peace treaty“ And that is a possibility.

Riddler: Also, we want nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood.  Let’s get that out there.  That group is tied to virtually all of the bad stuff associated with the bad guys.

Loki: right, but the Brotherhood is going to be in power in some stretch. plus one of the only reasons they are bad guys is mubarak throwing them into prison where they started all of the horribleness. the chapters in egypt are more moderate and again this isn’t a religious revolution. i like al jazeera, and i think they are the best example of the pulse of the arabs, but i think israel should at least offer assistance out there, even if they’re not asked.

Ra’s: Egypt is not like other Middle Eastern  Countries. The Brotherhood doesn’t have the Pull like the  other Groups in Palestine for example. They’re not seen as Liberators or Organizers of this movement.   Since the US press does no research and fear titles The Brotherhood  is getting the limelight.

Riddler: I agree the press sucks but the Brotherhood isn’t a tea party, even in Egypt.  Read sleeping with the devil by Robert Baer.  A lot of the guys high up in the Brotherhood got their start in Egypt.  The Brotherhood is scarier in other countries, but it’s not a walk in the park in Egypt and it would be naïve to think their influence won’t be significant.

Ra’s: Your book reference would have merit If we were talking about Saudi Arabia. Egypt is a by far a more Moderate nation. Lebanon or Turkey, Jordan ect… all have a less toleralant liking to extremism. Now is there an Extremist view point in Egypt sure. But it has to do with Economics  more than a feeling that they should return to  Caliph-esqe state.

Riddler: No offense but I’ll go with the guy who lived in Egypt for years rather than yours on this one.  Of course the Brotherhood is worse in other countries like Saudi Arabia, but to pretend they’re all a bunch of pussycats just wanting their bellies rubbed in Egypt is just wrong.

Ra’s: Every spokesperson, college leader, ect in Egypt has said this Protest has more to do with Economics than religious based Politics. I’m listing to Protestors right now saying it so it doesn’t matter what Anybody says. This is where there at…

Loki: How old is the book? The brotherhood used to be a lot worse than it is now. While I agree they’re not pussycats, they’ve also showed some reform and can work with other parties. I don’t expect any of the different parties to be pussycats… That’s why I’m optimistic about all three different groups talking. Hopefully no one will have a majority and they’ll all keep one another in check.

Riddler: Dude, I’m not arguing why the protest is taking place.  I know it’s about economics.  However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Brotherhood was founded in Egypt and all the scary dudes in other countries are trying to take advantage of this unrest and get the local Brotherhood to get more radical.  That was happening before and it sure as heck will happen more now that there is an opening for discord.

Ra’s: I didn’t say it cant… There are other factors that help nut Jobs take control  Illiteracy , a current Climate of western hatred, a need to return to a Caliph. The 2 main ones are not a factor in Egypt that’s the main difference between them and other countries in the region. Egypt is a more educated nation  that helps . It’s all in the Air .. But I notice on the news every western station is pushing Baradei… Hinting he should take over Should he ?? Who knows… Anything is possible.

Loki: Yeah, that book is from 2003. A lot has changed since then. From what I’ve read in the news the protesters are very cognizant of the religion questions and fighting against it. Egypt won’t be another Iran or Afghanistan.

Riddler: I don’t disagree.  I’m just talking history so the date of the book is irrelevant, the history is still there.  If you idiots could read you’d realize that you’re arguing against something I’ve never said.  I’m just saying that any time a country opens itself up for a change in power all of the factions that want more power will be involved.  The brotherhood in Egypt is one of those factions and it’s naïve to think they can’t be influenced by their more vocal branches in other countries.

Ra’s: No one said it’s not possible. They will be involved in the process that has already been said. No one is defending the Brotherhood but you have to pay attention to what contributes to the rise of these groups. And since you want to discuss history lets go! Any time you have a dictator or religious group take over these are ALWAYS 3 REASONS THEY Come in to Power!!!

  • They have to be seen as the liberators of Western Oppression via Current Presidents or Ecomomics  (Cuba , Iran , Iraq, Palestine)
  • An anti western climate already has to be in place  (there holding Yes We Can Too signs…)
  • A desire to return to Caliph (Questionable but hasn’t been shown yet In Current Egypt. During the 70’s, yes, also toss in Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Saudi ARABIA (DURING World War I.)

Riddler: I know. Loki just indicated their involvement was a good thing and I don’t think I agree.  It’s not necessarily bad either, because other forces are at work, but it’s a concern.

Loki: I do think it’s a good idea to let the brotherhood have a say in the government. If it’s going to be a democracy then all parties must be represented, to not let them be represented would cause more problems and that’s when people start speaking with bombs to make themselves heard. I completely agree with Ra’s’ assessment of this. Your an idiot if you can’t get this through your thick skull.

Riddler: Sigh.  Learn to read.  I’m not saying they shouldn’t be involved, I’m just saying that their involvement isn’t necessarily something to cheer for.  The militant factions of the brotherhood have been trying to push them to crazy levels for years, so being all fired up for a group that could potentially be manipulated by folks who hate us seems like an odd choice.  Seriously, do you read every other word or something?

Loki: Well it doesn’t help when you change your argument midway through a discussion, Riddler. You were saying your precious 8-year-old book had labeled all of the brotherhood as bad guys, and you were saying you didn’t think it was a good thing they were involved. Ra’s and I, correctly confronted you and disproved the fact your 8-year-old book was now out of date, and our argument was that you were wrong and that while the factions of the brotherhood have been involved with scary stuff it’s a democracy and all parties should be involved. If it’s any consolation, if we were discussing this in 2003 I would probably agree with you and your 8-year-old book. But people change. I don’t agree with the message they convey, but they have learned and developed. Your fear tactics of them would involve them turning it into a religious government. Ra’s did a fine job of putting you in your place about this. Perhaps you should go listen to Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising and think of how sweet life was 8-years-ago.

Riddler: My fear tactics?  Easy there Glenn Beck, your paranoia is showing.  Yes, the book is 8 years old.  How recently have you read up on anything in the Middle East?  Never?  Oh, ok.  The book provides the history of the place, it’s not a newspaper, it’s not current, but the history remains the same. If you want to pretend that being pro-egyptian muslim brotherhood makes you enlightened then go for it.

Ra’s: The  history of the middle east always differs though depending on which organization that person worked for…

Riddler: Oh I agree.  But that’s part of the issue, isn’t it.  We say that an ex-CIA agent is biased and so we doubt his opinion, but then we value our own over anyone else’s and let’s face it, for all the news clips, stories, etc that we see we still know far less about the area than we’d care to admit.

Loki: I think Al Jazeera, written by Arabs, for Arabs, explaining Arabs probably know their own history and are more up to date. The BBC is also a fine institution capable of doing research as well, so, yes, I think I’m informed… You’re like a southern teacher using the text book that said blacks fought for the confederacy in the civil war.

Riddler: I don’t doubt that Al Jazeera knows their stuff.  The question is, how can you understand it truly?  You can’t, because everything you see is through your own prism.  You were raised Christian surrounded by white people in a primarily Christian country with no history of ongoing bloodshed.  You can try to understand, but you can’t ever understand the way someone from the area would.  This isn’t a rip on you, it applies to everyone.  So relying on good sources is a good choice, but let’s not pretend that any of us actually know what the region is dealing with in any honest way.  That’s just childish.

Loki: No, I agree with that. I guess I’m more inclined to try to get as many viewpoints as possible and then process it for myself. Cos yes, at the end of the day that’s all we can really do.


Snow Day Chicago

A snow blower grumbles and North Bridge answers. Crystal tears are thrown to the wind, wiping the sidewalk slate clean.

west town-ghost town

The hotel employee is friendly. Everybody is friendly in a ghost town.

Less than twenty-four hours ago the mass exodus happened and everything disappeared. Cars spun wheels in vain irony while traffic stabbed west, escaping the North Loop. The 65 was packed with people, puffy jacket to puffy jacket, cramming its way home. The notion that it was faster to walk than ride was lost upon them.

the storm

They contented themselves to the luxury of wait. Put life on pause; stall with it. Embrace: stoplights, stop signs, vehicles trapped midway through an intersection.

Today, though, everything is beautiful, pristine. Snow stacks itself in frozen waves, cresting against buildings–never breaking, just resting.

Exchanging a nod with a  fellow pedestrian, she takes a picture of the untarnished snow. Perhaps she knows, too, in a matter of hours this will all go away. It, all of this, shall be replaced with the grime of the city, charring everything to dull gray.

Music chimes from headphones as another drift is summitted, another street crossed. Lyrics and song from somewhere far, far away, without intention, flesh out the soundtrack. The moving picture plays before the eyes, filling in the dialogue for the people dancing down Michigan Avenue.

red jacket


A laugh ripples through the strings, arresting attention towards a school girl falling backwards, down, into the powder. Her arms flutter up then return to grace. The chaperon holds hand to heart, before blanching face to smile.

after the storm

At the bridge, still a few blocks north of the loop, a TV crew idles. This is not the struggle, the violence, the war against weather they wished for. Instead the eye of a camera, playing for those not here, witnesses steam curling off a cup of coffee from one of the few shops opened. In the contrast, a man walks against windows, his reflection spinning the only chaos against an otherwise unpainted picture.

A jeep kicks up slush and the dream is over.

Awakened to discover the city is not nearly as hostile as they were lead to believe, the world rises. Setting down books and loved ones, they allow the whipped-cream to melt into hot chocolate, promising themselves to wash it clean after half-a-workday.

Ride Into the Sun

The wind cuts and the soft snow turns razors against the face, sending tiny stings into frozen cheeks.

It’s time to go home.

Tomorrow this will be in order. The next day it will be forgotten. A footnote in the history of life. One to speak of with subdued passion upon short rumination.

“Yeah, I was there. It wasn’t really that big of a deal.”

Savage Night At the Sullivan Center

Security was relatively lax, in fact there was none at all. Any cheap swine could merely wander in from the cold Chicago evening to seek warmth, and any two bit punk with half an idea could pull off the unthinkable in this situation.

Surely more concern with the recent wake of fear driven by the happening in Tuscon should’ve spurred better thinking. And yet 130 souls were crammed into the same auditorium to listen to the good Reverend  speak.

This was no mere happenstance, he was appearing at the request of the Department of Student Divinity and Multi-Cultural Affairs. The keynote speaker to cap off the celebration honoring Martin Luther King jr.’s life and tragic death.

He spoke with his usual aplomb. Rev. Al Sharpton’s rhetoric sounds so sweet, yet continually missed the mark. His speech was muddled from the beginning. Was he challenging the audience to do better things? To live up to the benchmark King set? Or was this underhanded bravado, boasting of what it was he had done in his life?

Sharpton is a man of compelling oration, craftily working in humor into the seriousness of his message, but his words are conveyed without pathos. Feeling hollow and somehow empty when they are chewed over.

Opening the floor up for questions, the audience members pulled their punches. There were no questions about Tawana Brawley, no inquiries about his comments about other religions. Instead the crowd asked lay-up questions: His relationship with President Obama, his thoughts on the African-American community being environmentally active, and a softball sized question for him to knock out of the park on the Tea Party.

Sharpton concluded the speech nicely, revisiting Martin Luther King jr. and the monument they are erecting to him in Washington D.C.

“As long as D.C. stands that monument will stand. Try to find that difficult task that will last longer than your life,” Sharpton said. “Don’t do it for the good of some organization. Do it for the good of you. That’s the spirit of Martin Luther King jr.”

Searching for Prester John

This is a foolish errand.

Better, smarter and more dedicated folk have traveled this path, and their stories are chronicled in pits of madness or concluded, unfinished on the great highway of life.

Kerouac and Thompson sought it and left befuddled. Fitzgerald and Joyce attempted to fictionalize it, leaving their characters lost, dead, unsatisfied.

But it’s out there. It has to be out there.

It is defined by as such:

Authenticity: [aw-then-tik] adj. 1. Not false or copied; genuine; real 2. Entitled to acceptance or belief because of known facts or experience.

That is it, at least in definition. But are there real people out there? Where are the true encounters to be had? Does it exist only in moments? Is this need to find something authentic in life nothing more than a sensationalized letter from a mythical king?

This is an ongoing story, an exploration to play cartographer to the human experience. It will thread its way through news articles, interviews and personal observations. All that is needed is an open mind and patience.

So with ears pressed to the ground, listening to the massive kick drum beating in the chest of every soul, the journey–