Usually I would have taken the bus back home, then travel to wherever the family would be gathering. I’d rib my brother and cousins, dance around with the dog, weave lattices for my dad’s pies, peel, chop, mash, mix, sautee, clean, regale my relatives with stories from the past semester, and take in the succulent scents filling the house with warmth. I’d tuck in to my uncle’s fantastic turkey, several kinds of stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, my grandma’s famous scalloped potatoes, my dad’s focaccia, the pecan chocolate pie a la mode I crave all other times of year… In a tryptophan-induced haze, I’d probably go watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” try and understand the football game on TV, maybe go welcome Santa to town, and lumber off to bed, happy and full.
I’ll still get to do some of that, but this year things are clearly quite different. In Egypt, I am watching bitter struggles of a nation building itself back up after decades of unjust regimes and corruption. It’s funny not knowing where I would rather be: here counting my blessings in such upheaval or back in the States with family and friends.
My family traces some of its roots back to the Mayflower, in particular the first governor of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford. We have a tradition (I think from my historian grandfather) of reading aloud part of Bradford’s writings on the pilgrims’ arrival in New England. The message rings true even for Egypt’s current political situation as the same desperation comes through. But in both 1621 America and 2011 Egypt there are small triumphs in the face of great adversity and therefore we give thanks.
“Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembered by that which wente before), they had now no friends to wellcome them, nor inns to entertaine or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies, no houses or much less townes to repaire too, to seeke for succor… And for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of that country know them to be sharp and violent, and subjecte to cruell and feirce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search an unknown coast. Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men? and what multitudes there might be of them they knew not… For summer being done, all things stand upon them with a wetherbeaten face; and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew. If they looked behind them, there was the mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar and gulf to seperate them from all the civill parts of the world… Let it also be considered what weake hopes of supply and succor they left behinde them, that might bear up their minds in this sad condition and trialls they were under… May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: Our fathers were English men which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this willdernes, but they cried unto the Lord, and he heard their voice, and looked on their adversity… Let them therefore praise the Lord, because he is good, and his mercies endure for ever…Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, show how he hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor.”
This country of 80 million is awake and ready for change. Egyptians are unhappy to settle for an oppressive regime and a corrupt and failing system, even if it will take many hard-fought battles to make that possible. I am thankful to be surrounded by such bravery and happy to be sharing in this fight for a better future, just as my ancestors toiled and suffered to live free from persecution almost four centuries ago. Everyone knows that life is not going to go from difficult to rosy anytime soon, but just the fact that Egyptians are not giving up easy is reason to give thanks.