Maybe the mark of an American protest is that the protester in a moment can go from chanting pithy and informative slogans to the local coffee shop for a latte of their choice, be it caramel or hazelnut. Therein is the gift we have in our freedom. We are steps removed from wherever the trouble is and so even though we may care deeply about a situation, we easily go back to our normal lives without having to face real danger or show true courage.
The protest that my husband and I took part in yesterday at Harvard Square, while deeply desiring to support Egyptians, cannot compare to the amazing spirit shown in the Egyptian people and what they have endured to have a voice in the future of Egypt. Armed with banners and a couple of megaphones about 200 of us marched from Harvard Square through to Central Square. The march went on to Faneuil Hall but at Central we left, not for a latte, but for a shawarma at a tiny local spot called Falafel Palace. The shawerma was delicious and we were in high spirits, having been with others who cared about the country and forced themselves away from Al Jazeera’s live stream to gather, but both of us realized we really don’t know what it’s like to not be able to voice what we think, when we think it, and where we want to express it.
It is sometimes tiresome to hear talk of how lucky we are to have freedom,hearing the largely clichéd phrase “freedom is not free”. But the reality is that participating in a peaceful assembly and openly voicing my views with no fear whatsoever (other than mispronouncing something in Arabic) is something I take for granted, and I think most of those surrounding me are the same. When it sinks in that my protest ends with a latte or shawerma, not stinging eyes from tear gas, soaked clothes from water cannons, and a blood filled eye from a baton then I don’t really care if I sound tiresome. I still think it’s worth publicly documenting that freedom is indeed a not to be taken for granted gift.