Today marks two anniversaries for me: one year since I arrived in Egypt, and the one felt by everyone: the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It’s incredible to think that it has been a year since Egypt; so many things have changed, both for me and for Egyptians, and in world politics in general. In many ways, it seems like much more than a year has passed, but in other ways, the time has flown by. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of my time in Egypt, even a year later.
The Sept. 11 anniversary does leave me with some thoughts, though. I’m not purporting these to be good, or bad; they are merely observations. First- the past ten years have normalized a state of war in a way unlike any in the past, I think. A large amount of people have not had to sacrifice much, nor have they been asked to, in our efforts to combat terrorism. No tax increases to pay for our actions, no rationing, etc. And the war seems incredibly sanitary- we don’t usually see the horrific side of war in the media (i.e. pictures of coffins, the image of Bin Laden). Second- the Middle East has come to occupy a disproportionally large focus in people’s minds and government’s attention. Terribly important things are happening in other areas of the world- Kashmir, the India-Pakistan conflict, China, just to name a very few- with comparatively little attention, at least in the public eye. Third- the utter repudiation of extremist tactics by a new generation of Arab/Muslim youth seeking to assert their influence in their own governments is the best response to the hatred we witnessed on 9/11. I’m forever impressed at the courage we have seen in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Iran, etc, in the face of incredible oppression. Finally- the lesson I’m left with is that we in the U.S. must continue to live in an open and free society. Any efforts to close doors or create barriers between our own citizens, or create a constant atmosphere of possible threat, means that the terrorists have achieved their objectives. To not let them win, we must stay committed to a free and democratic society, albeit with the risks contained in doing that. The opposite would be so much worse. Jon Stewart said it best on his first broadcast after 9/11/01 (a summary): Our response to 9/11 must be to unite, not divide. Any fool can blow something up; it takes great men and women and a great nation to rebuild and rededicate ourselves to our principles and ideals. He then said the view from his apartment overlooking lower Manhattan was the World Trade Center when he left on the morning of 9/11; when he returned home that night, the towers were gone, but the view now was of the Statue of Liberty. You can’t beat that.
On 9/11/01, I was in seventh grade, in Ms. Rye’s geography class, when we were told to turn on the TV. We spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what it meant. In ways unknown to me then, 9/11 changed my life. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for that day. My interest in the Middle East would likely not have happened had it not been for the long national dialogue after that day.
Anyway, this was another great week at GW and in DC. I’m starting to get involved with student orgs here- the Cyberlaw society, the Intl Law society, Street Law, etc. I discovered that I, along with another student, are the first two to ever do this exact dual program between Law and Middle East Studies- which is kind of terrifying but also really exciting. I heard Joan Donoghue, one of the 15 judges on the International Court of Justice and a former GW professor, speak. I saw the Nationals win an 11-inning game. I went to the new MLK memorial and played softball with GW students. I get to hear the president of the World Bank speak on Wednesday, and Sultan al-Qassemi and Philip Howard on Thursday. In the future, I have tickets to hear Mike Mullen, David Brooks, Toni Morrison, David Sedaris, Stephen Breyer, and John Paul Stevens speak, and I have a ticket to see my first professional hockey game ever.
An unbelievable amount of things happen here every day, and we have the remarkable opportunity to be a part of so much of it. I’m trying to take full advantage of everything that I can. It can be quite hectic, but that’s what I love about it.
After raining for about 4 days straight here, it’s beautiful now, so I’m going to stop writing. Enjoy your weeks, everyone.