It is hard to know how to start this blog. The day after the day after the referendum. Bear with me as I spill these thoughts out here.
The Eve of the Referendum
A couple friends and myself went out on Friday for hours driving around different areas of Cairo, passing out fliers and spending time talking with the many people that came to talk to us. We spoke with many bus and taxi drivers, gas station workers and the many delivery guys walking buy. We put up posters everywhere we could that we knew would be noticeable. The response was amazing. For the first time in my life here in Egypt, I have began to notice how much people are becoming politicized and suddenly how much they truly care about their country. Even more to my delight many people jumped to help us put up the signs and asked many questions about the different options. I felt happy…but as the night went on I started hearing more and more reports of people saying that they had to vote yes because they didn’t want the country to be taken over by Christians (you know since Christians are so politically active) or that they didn’t want chaos to ensue (which would definitely happen if they voted no) or that they didn’t want a secular state implying that Article 2 was even up for debate (which it wasn’t). It seemed to say that many people were voting yes for all the wrong reasons, for reasons that had nothing to do with the actual amendments. However, the majority of people out on the streets were supportive and with some simple talking and explaining many of them seemed to start rationalizing and thinking through their decision and vote. I had hope.
Morning of Referendum
Excitement started my day, and all of our days. Millions of people went out to vote, and for most of us, it was the first time we thought our vote would count, and for even more of us, it was the first time we would ever vote. From the start of the day people were reporting confusion about the form, the ink, etc. So many flaws to the system. One of the most important decisions we would make as a nation was being based off of an unorganized voting system that without fraud and the lies that manipulated people it still left a huge margin of error. Either way, spirits were up, people were happy and I was happy. I still had hope.
Day after Referendum
Then the sickening wait began…early results started coming out. Crazy numbers of 90% voting Yes seemed strange and all I could ask was “really?” Is it possible that so many people voted yes. Well the results came out finally and the final count was 77.2% YES and 22.8% NO. By the end of the day when the results did come out, most of us could expect this result. But nothing really could prepare me for that. What was frustrating was that suddenly people kept saying that this is democracy, and that we had to accept the results. First of all, in a democratic state, everyone has the right to be happy or sad. Acceptance? Yes if the system is reliable and trustworthy and we know that the other players weren’t being manipulative and aggressive. Also, with that aside, when one believes so strongly in one thing, don’t ask them to pretend that their loss doesn’t matter. Because when someone believes so strongly in something, it’s usually because they actually think it does matter.
And what makes it worse is that as a country we rushed a decision on a flawed system that will determine years and years of our future and well fare as Egyptians. That is the most sickening feeling to me. Whether there are grand schemes behind everything or not, it was rushed and it was not fair to the people of Egypt. We spat on their dignity by watching them get manipulated by lies to say something that they don’t even understand. Now it is true that many more people turned out for the first times in their life, and that there is a huge victory. I am not regretting the joys we witnessed on the day of the referendum, I am only regretting the decision for the referendum in the first place, the rushed paint job that will affect only 80 million lives in Egypt and millions more around the world. Why is it that we take politics so lightly? Why is it that leaders don’t fully understand the weight of the work they do? Maybe they do, and maybe they thought this was right. And I do understand that I am not an expert in this field, nor do I understand the intricate makings of the Egyptian political system. However, I do know that we didn’t have to rush this referendum.
After the Referendum, Now until When?
However, it is over and the vote was YES. We will not fight it because that will only be our downfall. If we try to uncover fraud, we will criticized for not being democratic. If we protest against it, we will be criticized for creating the ‘fawda’ everyone is worrying about. So don’t. From the depths of my heart I ask that we move forward and not try to fight what happened in our recent past. We still accomplished more than anyone thought we could and so now we just need to be innovative and creative as we battle for a new paradigm shift in our nation, as we battle for the ‘hearts and minds of our beloved Egyptians.’ So don’t give up or throw your hands up in the air, cursing at the wind. I won’t lie and pretend I could say this last night. I couldn’t. But I can today and I’m saying it loud and clear. WE DO NOT LIVE IN A DEMOCRATIC NATION and WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE FUNDAMENTALS OF DEMOCRACY. There, loud and clear. We are only at the very beginning of our long and bumpy road towards what we are dreaming of. Change doesn’t come over night, even after the ousting of a dictator. So now we start the real battle and the real hard work.