first the unbearable (learning of Egypt)

i hear the condolences first
read the written word, the name, the place
someone is sending love, with rage,
with shock, with tears, with analysis
with their people
with all people
and i go looking for the fresh wound

i want to not know
to not step from here, without this pain
to the next moment, marked by blood
looking past the flayed horizon
whispering no. no not this many no.

the numbers grow on my tongue
i say them to no one
i read the news to whomever is near
even if they have read
or are reading it
i want to lend my voice
to the spell of awakening
to make every head turn
look, look what we’ve done
look what we have not undone
what we have allowed and encouraged
what we have invested in
what we forget, what we remember
look who we are now
look who we still are

i want to change the story being written
the history still warm and wet on our fingers
i want to focus on the intimate heartbreak of violation
what stole my smile, my childish peace
boorish men, the mountain of offense
we have all burrowed through
the memories we walk with, and the terrors
navigating legacies of genocide and erasure

i know all of the harm intertwines at the root
i know the medicine has to go deeper down
to the core of existence
to the cord between us and god
to the faultlines between us
that make us think: i can be without you

but first, the unspeakable
the unimaginable, the unbearable
we have created hell with our boredom
we birthed hierarchy, greed, and the foolish need for victory, for righteousness
it is killing us
it is killing everything
eating us up from within
the detonation of cancer in a living body
the cancer of violence in a living world

some days i am nothing more than a prayer
a vessel of tears being emptied
stunned by my own insignificance,
our inability to stand in the way of our demons
the brightest truth about us

some days i have to focus on one story
out of the hundreds of deaths,
one person telling god everything
feeling the sacred flood all of their senses
planning the next meal’s portions
and what to say to their sweet and distant lover
one person remembering they are enough
one person smiling as they gather themselves
for the world outside
enjoying the mundane pleasure of bodies
all around
in and of faith, wearing faith, speaking faith

the doors will open
the violence will burst in
so sure of itself, so wrong
i will learn your name in your absence
perhaps i cannot fathom
the entirety of gore
the scale of destruction we have committed to
but you, stranger of faith
comrade in the act of prayer
beloved to your God, your mother, your son
you i will grieve for
you i will grieve
for all the time and sea between us
i feel the shock of losing you
it is a devastation
i would have loved you
but my species
we are terrified of love.

egypt, love and liberation

my heart is bursting from my chest today, tears on my cheeks, my skin covered in waves and waves of goosebumps as my body integrates the beautiful revolution in egypt.

i am watching al jazeera, reading the voices of egyptians on twitter, watching and listening as the egyptian protestors dance and sing and scream and celebrate the success of their revolutionary effort.

in case you don’t know yet – hosni mubarak, after 30 years of holding the presidency in egypt, has been forced out of power by the egyptian people after 18 days of revolution. and it’s not just him, it’s his entire regime. and it’s not just egypt, it’s tunisia, it’s the entire region! and instead of handing power over to the unacceptable vice president he appointed 14 days ago, mubarak conceded power to the army, who have unequivocally stated that they will stand with the people and the democratic process in this effort.

there is so much work to come as the people continue to learn how to hold power together. there is so much grief to process for the lives lost in this struggle, the martyrs who sacrificed themselves for something they knew was greater – justice.

and right now, there is this moment of feeling absolutely alive, feeling the absolute best potential of humanity when it rises up against corruption, against oppression, against violence.

if i could do backflips, or be a firework, or transport myself to tahrir square – i would.

all i can think is – how beautiful is it when people love themselves so much that they cannot continue being compromised, when they must stand up for justice?

it is so beautiful – i can’t take my eyes off of it.

“i feel so proud to be egyptian”, “i love my people” – this is love, that inner transformation which allows you to be brave and persistent and nonviolent and put others before yourself. this is love, happening at a quantum scale.

and i feel so humbled. i live in the united states, where i constantly hear organizers talking about strategy, how can “we beat them?”…and i have felt, deeply, that it isn’t about the enemy, it’s about what is within you. are you willing to step up, to put your voice and body behind your beliefs, to live in a new way? are you willing to be fearless? are you willing to see everyone as a potential ally in the larger mission for justice?

but i haven’t had enough modern models of love and inner transformation creating tangible large-scale change to draw on. now, egypt has given us this gorgeous model. nonviolent, personal, loving, healing, taking care of each other and their country, and not giving up – cleaning the streets, inviting the army to stand with the people, setting up their recycling centers and medical stations and childcare and creating the society they longed for – that is what revolution can look like.

and it is so important to me that this model of love and nonviolence comes to us all from the arab world, from the very people who have been SO internationally maligned and targeted, by my country and others, as “dangerous”, “terrorists”. it is important for us all to grasp that in fact, egyptians, arabs, are the current face of people’s power, of a new democracy, of a love-based transformational movement.

i am in, i am celebrating, i am crying and laughing and overjoyed. i am so grateful.

thank you egypt. thank you so, so much.

your love has changed the world.

A Few Things the American and Western Publics should KNOW About the Egyptian Revolution by Atef Said

(wanted to pass along this important piece from an Egyptian writer-activist. Please pass it along.)

1) This is a mass revolt that includes all Egyptian provinces and cities, even little villages. Historian Joel Beinin describes this as a “tipping point” in the Egyptian history. Such a wide-ranging, major revolt has never happened in Egypt and it is perhaps greater than the Egyptian revolt of 1919 against the British Occupation. Hence, please do not believe the mainstream media in the West and especially in the U.S. that continues to describe the events in Egypt as a passing crisis. This is the typical, depoliticizing language of western governments and mainstream media. Yesterday, about half a million demonstrators were in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. In Alexandria, no less than two hundred thousand people were demonstrating. In Mahala, about 150 thousand people were on the streets. In Suez and Mansoura, Fayoum, and many other major cities numbers were about 40 to 50 thousands at least.

2) ALSO, please know that the language of “reform” being encouraged in Washington, D.C., and European capitals at worst means endorsing Mubarak, giving him time to maneuver, steal the revolution, and/or suppress the demonstrations. At best, it is designed to allow superficial changes that do not fundamentally respond to the demands of the Egyptian people. People in Egypt in the hundreds of thousands have one slogan: WE NEED THE END OF THIS REGIME. Mubarak is a tyrant who has run the country for 30 years, since the first year of PRESIDENT REAGAN’S administration (!!!) by using emergency law. His rule has been marked by forged elections and widespread corruption. At the same time, he is regularly portrayed in the West as a moderate leader and friend. Reports by Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, among others, have documented the bloody history of Mubarak’s rule. Note that the internet was shut down by the government of Egypt since January 28 until the moment. Even China worries about doing such a thing in 2011. And Western governments still talk to the regime in the language of reform. Also insulting and indicating Western complicity is the language that “all sides” need to stop the violence, since demonstrators are unarmed, at least 200 of them have been killed, and well over 1,500 have been injured.

3) The idea of a “chaotic” Egypt with widespread looting is part of regime propaganda. Yes, looting has occurred. But as with the situation in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, corporate media exaggerate chaos and looting to the detriment of focusing on the larger substantive patterns and dynamics, and the causal factors. People I’ve spoken with in Egypt and hundreds of leaked Twitter reports reinforce that these are exaggerations designed to distract from the main patterns and issues. Moreover, most of the folks who have been caught looting and spreading violence are members of Mubarak’s secret police and thugs. These individuals work with his regime to forge elections and attack demonstrators. About two million people, largely men, work in this secret police force. Egypt under Mubarak spends around $1.5 billion a year to finance this security apparatus in a country with a debt of around $500 billion as of 2009. For example, in Tahrir Square, people created a human shield and worked with the military to protect the Egyptian Antiquities Museum, the Arab League Headquarters, both in Tahrir Square, at the same time Tahrir Square businesses have not been looted. The only place that was burned in the Square was the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party. People have organized neighborhood watch groups nationwide in order to protect private and public property.

4) There is a dominant narrative that if there is regime change in Egypt, this will bring a radical extremist government. This narrative is spread by Mubarak’s regime, Israel, U.S. governmentn officials, and the mainstream media in the U.S. This is absolutely not true. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood refused to participate in the January 25 protests, watched for three days, and then decided to join them. In 2005, the MB struck a deal to win 88 seats in parliament — according to interview with their former leader. Youth in the streets denounce the religious chants encouraged by the Muslim Brotherhood. A common slogan in the demonstrations nationwide is: We need a democratic civilian government, not a sectarian government, not a government of thieves. On January 30, Mubarak pressured Christian leaders and the al-Azhar Shaikh to say in public that they still support Mubarak. Today in response, many Egyptian Christian demonstrators carried crosses. Some demonstrators have changed: Shaikhs and Popes, shut the Fuck Up. Christians and Muslims were injured and killed together in these demonstrations. No single Muslim Brotherhood leader who was interviewed in the media dares to claim the revolt for their organization. They cannot steal this revolution.To be fair to the Muslim Brotherhood, they have paid a heavy price under Mubarak’s repression. Moreover, they are known to be quite pragmatic in their politics.

This is history in the making. An opportunity to side with people’s right to democracy and freedom. If you care about freedom and democracy, 1) spread the news to overcome the information blockades and mainstream messages; 2) express solidarity with the Egyptian people as often as you can; 3) write to your government representatives, newspapers, blogs, and other media venues, telling them you refuse to have your money used to back a dictator and repress people’s legitimate grievances; 4) protest in front of Egyptian embassies worldwide and or before other houses of power, especially of Western governments whose leaders support Mubarak and have supported him since 1981! It is all of our democratic right to question our government’s support for bloody dictators!

birth and revolution

when asked who is the leader, people in tahrir sqaure say, ‘we are’. we need a new concept of revolution to understand #egypt. it’s emerging from the people. leaders could only be midwives.
— grace lee boggs


Meet Asmaa Mahfouz and the vlog that Helped Spark the Revolution

i have been watching internet videos and sharif kouddous on democracy now, and al-jazeera non-stop for days, watching revolution catch and grow like a fire in the middle east. it’s beautiful, and i have been trying to think of ways to write about it without romanticizing what i see. i know that there are beautiful parts and mostly there are very very hard conditions that people there are in, and have been in, and will be in.

to me the beauty is in the self-organization, decentralization, and simultaneous strategic use of and independence from technology. its in the voices and leadership of women and young people who are all incredibly on message and uncompromising on their demands.

watching the people demand and create change in egypt and throughout the middle east is giving me that thing i have been longing for which is greater than hope – belief that change is possible in our lifetimes, in the present.

i had been feeling sort of hopeless not about the work of u.s. movements, but the internal dysfunctions and how that lays a shoddy foundation for any revolutionary work. i have felt myself wanting to shake loose of movements where i can’t feel the commitment to transformation, only feeling the loyalty to anger, critique and competition.

i have felt myself pulled towards healing and food and babies, cooking all the time, focusing on being a great auntie, and beginning to learn the path of the doula.

now its clear to see there is something universal in this longing, that it is not a moving away from movement that makes me want to attend to the health and the birth and body of people. it is another path to liberation.

we need to see, and feel, that there is a resilience which comes from saying no to traditional top-down leadership, from stepping up to take care of our own communities (whether that’s as security or picking up litter or marching), from saying yes to women’s voices and actions, from holding out for the true demand of participatory democracy (not “capitulating as Mubarak has done,” — Noha Radwan).

i see that one role of midwives and doulas at this moment is to present a new way to think of generating great transformation. you support the mother, you nourish her, you believe in the innate capacity of the child and the mother to negotiate that fine line of life and death, you give everything you can, you do your best, you stay with it no matter what, you don’t take the mother’s process personally, you know there is no single right path except the one taken, and no matter what, you believe with your whole heart that the change WILL happen.

this happens all the time. 30 years ago such a miracle happened and the love of my life was born. what she has taught me about love could fill many books, but the most important lesson is the simplest: love is expansive.

and love – of people, of family, of the right to participate and to live – is what is driving the rage and uprising and change in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Yemen, in Jordan.

it is possible. it will happen. it is, now.

good resources in addition to al jazeera:

http://twitter.com/sharifkouddous
http://twitter.com/monaeltahawy
http://twitter.com/atefsaid