Dear People of the United States,
I do not know what’s going on in Egypt. I was mildly aware of the political environment while I was there only because my friend practically lived in Tahrir Square and I am in a program with people better than I. There was also the occasional article I accidentally read because it was sent directly to my inbox and I clicked the link thinking it was going to be a funny montage of fuzzy animals, babies, or Republican presidential candidates.
I realize it’s tempting to think I might know something about the political situation, since I just returned from living in Cairo for 6 months. I can see how you might guess I had picked up a newspaper every now and then, engaged in some political activism, or even absent mindedly absorbed the news on television, which would require nothing besides turning the device on and sitting in front of it. But, again, I have to insist that your guesses and assumptions are erroneous, and any attempt to get a short political analysis of the “sitch” will embarrass both me and you. Me, since I will be once again confronted with my staggering political ignorance, and you, since I will decline to admit that openly and tell you something which may prove to be wrong.
Therefore, upon hearing that I have been studying in Egypt, please refrain from asking me, “Are they going to pull themselves together?” or “What’s going on over there?” or “What about the women?” Though your guess to these questions is not as good as mine, both our guesses are equally likely to be wrong.
Worse still, please do not try to talk to me about your own political analyses that you’ve compiled by reading a few articles in the New York Times. The mere fact that you’ve done this will embarrass me and I will be forced to act like I know what you’re talking about. Please don’t make me do this. Your analyses are also likely wrong, but I will be unable to tell you that since I’ve done none of my own research. I might say something like “if 85% of Egyptian people don’t know what’s going on, how am I supposed to?” This statistic is a lie, but it feels right to me considering how much confusion I’ve felt about the situation, and I refuse to stop using it.
I agree with you it’s a shame I don’t know more. To that end, I’ve resolved to become more informed on Egypt’s internal politics from now on. But that means that I’m a student, just like you, and hate being interrupted when I’m studying. So…if you have an urgent question about Egyptian politics, if you and Jerry made a bet at the office Christmas party on which presidential candidate was going to be the subject of a smear campaign courtesy of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, then I recommend you read Al-Masry Al-Youm and Al-Ahram for starters, in addition to the New York Times. If your thirst has not been slaked, you could continue onto read political analysis from Foreign Policy and Jadaliyya.
After reading every article, please send me a short summary, making sure to include the central points and main conclusion. I thank you in advance for helping me educate myself on the country that I’ve been living in. This is, after all, a group effort.