A Distant Cousin · Amr Eldib 

A Distant Cousin

This is pretty much a technical blog. Okey, it’s a technical blog about software and developers, even the tag line is about a developer in some kind of heart surgery or something. So, I thought hard before taking a D-tour of those topics to address a political event like Obama’s address in Cairo tomorrow.
The reason is that I think I have a vantage point on the topic, being an Egyptian living in the west and subjected to the sheer volume of press coverage of the Obama campaign, transition, administration, and every little thing.
First of all, I want to address some of the arguments about the visit and the speech.

No Muslim World

Story in Foreign Policy
Trying to put a geographical boundary around the Muslim world is like giving membership cards for intellectuals. There are no specific qualifications, yet a lot of people are qualified.

The Visit is endorsement to the Mubarak regime

Not really, the reason the Obama administration chose Cairo rather than any other Islamic country is on basis of elimination. Helene Cooper predicted it best.
You know, Syria and Iran off limit, Indonesia would be playing favor with his childhood town, Saudi Arabia too holy, Turkey not Arabic enough, Iraq too many American forces, Palestine and Pakistan no no from secret service, Libya too crazy, Gulf Area too rich and too small for a big speech. So Cairo is the place, not with all the advantages but rather the place with no ‘Obvious’ disadvantages except for the no-democracy thing. Well, America lived with that for so long why stop now?
I can assure you that all Obama wanted was a podium with Al-Azhar or any other mosque in the background, a Muslim-y looking crowd and his teleprompter of course. If Mubarak had visited Washington as planned, maybe Obama wouldn’t have met with him in Cairo.

Cairo turning into a police/security barrack

Well, what else is new? Every time Mubarak goes out to buy new socks, Cairo turns upside down and a buffer zone of police top officers is created along the way from the presidential palace to the socks shop downtown.

Invitation to the ‘real’ Egypt

Argument made here
As much as I love for that to happen, we all know that not gonna. Simply because such a trip for Mubarak himself isn’t gonna happen. The guy have a financial meltdown, a GM bankruptcy, fading middle class, rising unemployment numbers, diving home prices across America, two wars, failing health care system, failing students, near failing social security system, changing climate, and a VP who doesn’t stop talking and you want him to pay attention to your problems of being unemployed, under paid if employed, having no health care, or decent education, having no freedom, or rights, being tortured, beaten, robbed, and used by all means possible. Please be serious. It’s not that Obama doesn’t care, or doesn’t know, or doesn’t have the means, no it’s just he’s not your president and probably have shit to do.

Protesting the Visit

News of protests
Look, I’m totally for the protests and all that. But don’t protest a speech from a pretty reasonable guy who is globally beloved and hugely popular in Europe, home of all Anti-American protests during the last 8 years. A guy who literally gave his first TV interview in office to an Arabic TV network.
I’m not saying don’t protest, I’m saying protest something that is actually worth protesting. For example, Obama broke one of his promises few weeks ago when he didn’t release the torture photos of Guantanamo camp and said that his administration will not seek the prosecution of those who carried out the torture or those who authorized it under the banner of protecting the American troops overseas. But it’s actually for political reasons including avoiding the embarrassment of addressing the Muslim world while photos of torturing Muslims is circulating the media and the Internet, and also avoiding a fight with the Republicans (who are basically responsible for all what happened in Gitmo) in a time where national unity and bipartisanship in Washington is the talk of the town.
So, if you wanna protest, protest all you want but do it for something that will get you some air time in the west to where you wanna deliver a message and not just get couple of nights in a Cairo police station.

Obama speech in Cairo for the Muslim world is part of his effort to fix the image of the United States around the world, especially in the Muslim world where good relations would go a long way in proving Obama right when he talks about dialog and direct diplomacy being the best way to secure America. So, this is more about Obama playing his best card in the effort to secure his own country, just like Bush did. And while Bush best card was his ‘Dickishness’ powered by Tomahawk cruise missiles, Stealth fighter jets, and empty threats of plug ’n’ play democracy, Obama’s best card is ‘Inclusion’ powered by inspiring rhetoric, compelling life story, and head-on style of addressing problems. Just look at what he’s done in Notre Dame and you’ll get a sense of how he tackle problems. Of course the middle east is no anti-abortion protest but you get the picture.
So, stop treating the man as if he’s the distant cousin who was elevated to leading the company producing all of our products and suddenly we’re expecting him to return all the favors that we never gave him, forgetting that the company is declining and stuck in legal disputes while its PR machine has been put on hold for the last 8 years. Stop casting your unrealistic hopes, disappointed dreams, everlasting problems, and growing anger on him. Start taking matters in your own hands and realize that no one, but you, can solve your own problems.


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