Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Halftime: Plebes 21, Pharaohs 14

This season, my local Division 2 soccer team, the Carolina Railhawks, started out awful at home. I think we lost or tied five out of our first seven home games. Of course, the only two games that we won were the games I didn't go to. This, naturally, got me paranoid. Maybe I was the cause of the Hawks' home troubles? Maybe if I stayed away from the games, the Hawks would win? This is, of course, absurd. I had no more an effect on the outcome of the game than I did on the weather - the game was decided by the players on the field (and occasionally the $#@*!% referee). But I wanted the team to win, so I searched for anything at all that I could do to help out, refusing to accept that I was incapable of helping beyond the standard soccer fan's role of shouting obscenities in the opposing goalkeeper's ears.

And in such superstitious tendencies I am not alone. Baseball is famous for the superstitions of its fans and its players alike - one baseball manager, the story goes, refused to move even a millimeter while his team was getting hits (this caused quite the problem when his team got a hit while he was reaching down to pick up a hot dog - and then got eight more in a row). Witness Bill Simmons after Super Bowl XLII blaming his jersey, his pre-game column, and other assorted things for the Patriots' loss to the Giants. We want control. We crave control. But we don't have it.

For the past two weeks, we've been watching something far, far more consequential than a sporting event on television. We've been watching Egyptians rise up against their repressive dictator, Hosni Mubarak, who has been running the place since I was born (almost to the day). We watched as the protestors took over the main square in Cairo calling for Mubarak to resign and democracy to take hold. We watched as Mubarak struck back with goons on horses and camels carrying Molotov cocktails. We watched as the army intervened, keeping the protestors and the pro-Mubarak goons apart. We watched as the goons tried desperately to keep the media at bay, intimidating and attacking reporters. We watched Anderson Cooper get punched in the face. And now, we watch as the protestors set up camp in Tahrir Square while Mubarak tries desperately to cling to power for himself and his family. We feel for the oppressed Egyptians, and wish that they could enjoy the freedom we cherish here in America.

And we ask ourselves what we can do, what America can do. We wonder if Obama can put pressure on Mubarak, or if Hillary Clinton can talk him down. We wonder if we can withdraw aid, as if the thirty years worth of foreign aid we've given Mubarak already would just disappear overnight if we withdrew future gifts. Some on the right fret about the result of giving Egyptians democracy.

But at the end of the day, watching and wishing is all we can do. Because this isn't about us, this is about Egyptians wanting freedom, and Mubarak really not wanting to give it to them. This is a struggle between the unstoppable force and the immovable object, and the only thing we'd be capable of doing is getting in the way.

It's not every day that we can see a revolution unfold in real time, and most of us who were raised on the principle that everyone deserves life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness want to see it succeed. Moreover, we want to be a part of history as it unfolds before our eyes. But all our cheering and banner waving does nothing from this side of the Atlantic. So we have to be content with simply watching Egyptians write their own chapter in our history books. Meanwhile, we'll hope that when the final whistle blows on this revolution, Team Freedom will have won a famous victory.


Mike said...

My friends banned me from Game 5 of the Rays-Rangers ALDS this year after going to Games 1 and 2 and watching the Rays lose both. So I sympathize.

But yeah, not really much we can do stateside, except whatever is within our power as an electorate to pressure our government to stand on the side of our national ideals rather than our national security (or at least the perception thereof). Because at the end of the day, democracy is coming to Egypt, and we want its new leaders to prefer working with us to, you know, hating us.

Matthew B. Novak said...

I'm tempted to comment on how you are both similar, since one of you is rooting for a soccer team and the other for the Rays... but I'm not that mean. Go Vikes. Eep.

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