15 days ago, a group of Egyptians bravely stood up to their government and demanded change. This set off a chain reaction that moved crowds of thousands turning into millions all over Egypt to speak out while the world was glued to AlJazeera and other networks covering the story. Progressing from peace and passion to violence, anger, and grief and then round again to passion and peace made every day seemingly unpredictable and full of potential victory only to be crushed by what could be seen as defeat personified in a stubborn government.
Today word is that life is slowly turning to a ‘new normal’. Tahrir is still full of protesters, tireless in their cry for democracy, but banks and businesses are opening with the understandable need to move forward. Just like any crisis, normal becomes challenged and in those first few days following a crisis there is a bewilderment as to what normal is supposed to look like. It strikes me that Egypt is in the same place – trying to figure this out. My daughter’s apartment is a couple blocks from Tahrir Square – the new normal of Tahrir Square is a permanent tent in the center and tenacious protesters not deterred. The new normal for some is to learn how to live without a beloved family member or friend,with only memories or online photo journals as comfort.
The ripple effect for those of us with family members in Cairo is evident – no longer am I waking up in a panic, aware of the 7 hour time difference and fearful that I may have missed a pivotal turn of events or an increase in violence threatening my offspring. I’m not constantly checking in with others closely connected to Cairo with the words “Have you heard any more news?” I still check AlJazeera every couple of hours and make sure that status updates on Facebook are quickly refreshed but gone is the intensity of emotion and connection. Gone is the need to let complete strangers know that “My daughter is in Egypt, you know!” (said accusingly of course!)
The ‘New Normal’ for Egypt is still to be determined. One of my readers commented that “Human Freedom is Messy”. Well said – it’s easy from an armchair view to see it as straightforward but online memorials, replayed footage of last week, and news archives are all reminders that the last two weeks were complicated and messy, and the next few months will not be easy. My prayer is that those fighting for a voice through democracy will continue to see the fight as their ‘normal’ and not give up until they have the chance to see a real election. My new normal? A renewed vision in seeing a ballot as a gift and a little sticker saying “I voted” as a symbol of pride.
“Without a single exception there is no living Egyptian who has ever participated in a real election of any kind” – Dr. Heather Keaney