- Life Style
On the 25th of December, 2010
Today I came across an old picture of you and me, and as you may assume, with memories entirely controlling the moment, I recalled the day we first met, surprisingly with every detail. You approached me with an optimistic look that is not devoid of well-hidden hear. You were the kind of girl who one can barely see talking and never see initiating. Your unusually friendly attitude intrigued me, yet why me? I still not know. I asked you about your name, and the answer was Treze, a name whose implication cannot be mistaken; I knew you were inevitably a Christian. Unveiled with an inconclusive name, I carried with me the scent of hope, and that is when I realized you were only instinctively and desperately seeking similarity, yet you were disappointed.
You were not ignored, yet never embraced, and neither was I. We may not share the same religion, but we share the same detached position, and you somehow comprehended that. You were no longer much disappointed.
We both knew behind doubt that we are a part of a society wrapped with fear, where not only the unfamiliar is risky, but also the dissimilar, or more precisely the non-identical, a society enchained with the desire for categorizing, where one naturally excludes while rarely and very cautiously includes others, a society where your dress determines your behavior, your name shows your religion, and your religion becomes your identity.
In this loop of confusion, generalization, and despair, I knew you were apparently safe while you were actually threatened, threatened by the preconceptions we so strongly cling to, by the judgments we so easily rush into making, by the fear we so comfortably never attempt to fight. I knew because I was threatened too.
Treze! Among all the pains that we might feel, not belonging is the most unendurable; it tampers with our humanity, which makes it the most unforgiveable. I cannot predict how you would react to this feeling of insecurity, neither am I definite about whether you would show or conceal this bitterness, yet I know you will never entirely forgive. Treze! It is not you I am afraid for: 20 years ago, in a relatively still-tolerant society, you must have woken up someday to the sound of Soad Hosny singing " Saba7 el-kheir ya mawlaty, " announcing the Mother's day; you must have walked along downtown streets, picked up the most beautiful dress, and slept with your arms around it, knowing with tremendous excitement that tomorrow we shall celebrate the feast; You must have seen the sun rising on your first day at school, frowning and still frightened, at the school bus driver’s jokes, you must have laughed and felt the warmth of acceptance. Treze! You have memories; you still preserve some nostalgia in a deep, distant part of your heart; you are still somewhat attached.
Yet my worst and deepest fear is while struggling for belonging we yield a generation that will not even bother to struggle, a generation with no trace of belonging, an indifferent generation, so Treze, all what I am hoping for is just to maintain the state of struggling.
Treze! All I can do is to plead you to struggle, to not put an end to your suffering, to not seek an answer. Treze! I am sorry I am that helpless, I am sorry to ask you this, but please allow the chains of nostalgia to immobilize you. And, if it is any comfort, you will always find me right beside you, in our same detached zone.
On the 12th of February, 2011
I think I have seen your face amongst the crowds in Al-Tahrir. I am not sure it was you, though she carried the same doubtfully optimistic air and had the same passionate look, yet this time you walked very steadily with the perseverance of an always-there, yet just-awoken, dignity. You passed by a man whom from his looks you categorized as retroactive; I observed a spontaneous frown that soon turned into a smile and then a wider smile when you noticed you both carried signboards with the same wordings. I saw your eyes shining with hope I have never seen in you before; I saw you laughing at others’ signboards and endless jokes and singing with limitless joy and belief, and for a moment, in the hallucination of joy, I felt I could hear the echoes of your voice amidst the voices of the millions there.
Treze! Perhaps it was not you; perhaps you never went there, yet I am glad we are sharing this glorious moment together.
Treze! I want to thank you for holding out until this unbelievable moment of victory actually came. I do not know how you fought against your inner doubts and fears, how you still believed in a place that seemed to be ready to stop believing in you, how you resisted the seducing offers of a better place, throughout the years, or maybe you were just about to give in.
Treze! I have to admit that I was wrong when I asked you to let the chains of nostalgia immobilize you; now I realize that filling your life with memories could warm your soul, yet will eventually drive you to commit the grave sin of freezing your imagination, of killing your ability to dream. So, Treze! Today I will not ask you to cling to your feelings of nostalgia. Today, I shall ask you to fight and fight vigorously. Today I am not helpless, I do not have a warm past to hide in, I rather have a future to ask for and dream of. Be part of it, and if it is any help, I shall be there, right beside you, in the battlefield for freedom.
On the 9th of October, 2011
I have been told I can talk to you no more. But Treze, I could not help sharing this with you. In my last letter I asked you to fight, yet I made no mention of the enemy: I knew you have always known him; you meet him every day, listen to his discriminative comments in your neighborhood, do the impossible to force your jaw muscles to draw a fake smile at his offensive jokes at work, wish to be invisible so he would not give you the most insincere haughty advice and make his absolute judgments upon you, take all the possible precautions and harshly train your body and soul on restraining yourself from getting involved in his point-of-view nauseating show. You know him too well, and I thought I knew him too. He is the intolerant, arrogant, discriminative other.
Walking through the fresh blood and burnt out cars; hearing the hoarse voices exerting daunting effort to gather the breaths scattered by enormous fear and pain to finally shout, to cry, maybe for the last time, not for help, but for a regain of consciousness, a regain of the battlefield; seeing newspapers covering ripped out bodies and trembling hands closing unbelieving eyes to an unbearable scene; smelling the scent of death dominating the air, I thought, yes we knew the enemy, yes we realized he has all the weapons of authority and oppression, but Treze, our eyes were too naïve to see and our imagination was not corrupt enough to foresee that he will use them as violently and mercilessly as that. Treze, the scene was not one of chaos and destruction as you may have assumed; it bore too much pain and suffering that it was sacred. Treze, even now, or rather especially now, I do not regret having incited you to fight; my only regret and spring of shame is that I was not right beside you as I have promised. Although I might have not blamed you like many others for standing in the narrow, restricted battlefield, my belief was still incomplete and my compassion was undermined by harsh conditions and demands. I was blinded by a deeply rooted preconception that we should all stand in the vast, comprehensive battlefield that I did not see it is we who make the battlefield narrow and restricted by not being part of it, it is we who lack the enough courage to decide and refuse to take the responsibility, so we step back and choose not to be involved, to leave the battle for others to fight, even if those others are the enemies we used to fight, it is we who comfort our consciences, which urge us to defend legitimate rights and face oppression and injustice regardless of the extent of their direct impact upon us, through blaming the genuine fighters, the ones who never gave up, and the stronger their pains get, the more our consciences hurt, the more we raise the blaming tone and pour our endless judgments upon them. Treze, the enemy is not just the intolerant, imperious, discriminative other; it is the intolerant, imperious, discriminative part in each of us, and this is the ultimate battle we ought to fight, because we are no less guilty.
Treze, my only condolence is my faith that it is your blood that will lighten our paths and give us the strength to proceed, always your blood.
Treze, I guess I have nothing to ask you for this time, except to rest in peace and forgive us all, and if it is any relief, here is my last promise to you, a promise that I would rather die before breaking, “I shall have your blood on my hands till the end, and I shall never again withdraw from a battlefield for freedom.”
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