“Show me what democracy looks like”

Is Cairo boiling today? I’m not there. People there must feel that this is a last chance to drag the revolution out from under the wheels of the Egyptian Army’s tanks; today is probably the day that will decide whether or not the army’s massacre of civilians at Maspero last Sunday, with the associated state-media-incited sectarian violence, is or isn’t forever considered an inexorable turning point in Egypt’s post-Mubarak history, a turn into something slimier and darker than the nice “transition period” people had been talking about.  (Remember the Eastern-bloc “transitions to democracy”? Like pre-Putin Russia?)  A line in last Tuesday’s front-page Al-Masry al-Youm editorial put it succinctly:

الفطرة الانتقالية لم تبدأ بعد  The transitional period has not yet begun.

The paper also called on Prime Minister Essam Sharaf (the name means “honor”) to “have the sharaf to resign.”  He hasn’t. Instead, an unabashed cover-up press conference by SCAF, some dithering by the main political parties.  The intelligentsia immediately started doing its thing, sometimes with great wit.  This is a mock film poster for a feature called “The Ministry of Interior is Still in My Pocket,” starring Hosni Mubarak:


The artist known as Sad Panda proposes cutting off the tower of the State Radio and TV building rather than cutting the bells and domes off of churches in Upper Egypt (More from Sad Panda here):

And another artist, Abdallah, highlights the contrast between 1973 and 2011 in a cartoon titled The Maspero Slaughter. “I sacrificed my life on 6 October on top of a tank,” says the skeleton on the right. “And I sacrificed my life on 9 October, under a tank!!” responds his friend on the left.

Where am I as all this unfolds? In Boston, home of the original Tea Party and still showing traces of its founding by a band of salafist reformers called the Puritans.  Having a great time hanging out with a hyper-talented theatre director and his company, but also homesick for Cairo. Since I can’t be at Tahrir or Azhar Square, maybe I’ll go visit the sleep-in near South Station this morning – this is the Boston chapter of the Occupy Wall Street folks, showing us all what democracy sounds like.

And maybe I won’t. Here’s an excerpt from the FAQ posted on the official Occupy Boston web site – doesn’t really suggest a vibrant and unified opposition to capitalist hegemony, does it?:

“Where can I park my car?

There are plenty of parking lots in the area. Daily parking lot rates can be as high as $30/day on weekdays.  Rates of $9-$12 are more common for weekends. Street parking is available all around the financial district, Chinatown and the waterfront. Meters cost a quarter for 12 minutes and you can only get up to 2 hours at a time. Meters are shut off at 8:00 pm and are off all day on Sundays.

I went to Dewey Square but I didn’t see an occupation there.  Where are you?

We are tucked away behind some small trees. Look harder, we are definitely there.  We are directly across Atlantic Avenue from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, which is this large silvery building.  …

I don’t like the food at Occupy Boston, or I don’t need free food.  Where else can I buy food nearby?

South Station has a small food court.  Quincy Market / Faneuil Hall is an 8-10 minute walk north on Atlantic Ave, and there is a wide variety of restaurants there.  Chinatown is a 2-3 minute walk south on Surface Road, and there are a lot of inexpensive restaurants and delis there.  Really, it’s downtown Boston; you can walk in any direction and find a lot of places to eat.”

Okay, in fairness, these are the FAQs intended for visitors and clueless fellow-travelers.  The protests are gaining momentum, spreading to different cities, and will probably get more interesting. But you know what I mean. These Bostonians can sound a bit whiny.  The physical courage of the Egyptian protesters, standing their ground in the face of unimaginable state violence, is just somehow (and thank God no one runs us over with APCs here) of a different moral stature.

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