Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Simple Twist of Fate

Grayson Harper

Well, here we are in the greatest country in the world. The snow has melted off and the mobs are massing to watch the gladiators have a go at each other. Tickets (in case you're interested) are going for between $3,500 and $20.000. If you don't mind watching it on a big screen outside the Coliseum--er--stadium, last I heard, the price was $200. Probably much higher today. On Super-Bowl Sunday, a thirty-second TV ad is running somewhere in the neighborhood of $3-million.

Meanwhile, half-way around the world, in Cairo, in Alexandria, a different hoard of folks are gathered together. Not just in Egypt, but other places, as well--in Jordan, Tunesia, Syria, Yemen, Sudan. Throngs of people lifting their voices for democracy, crying out to be treated with simple human dignity. The notion of shelling out $3,000 to watch a football game, or even $200 to watch it on a screen, probably would not occur to most of them as an option, not only because probably not one of them has anything close to that kind of money to waste, and perhaps never will, and not only because their reason for coming together could mean life or death, but because of the sheer absurdity of it.

So far, the football fanatics have had to endure snow and icy weather. Pat-downs at the airport. A slab of ice slid off the domed roof of the stadium yesterday and sent someone to the hospital.

And still they come.

Over eleven days, the Egyptians in Tahrir Square have fought off Mubarak's thugs, they've had rocks thrown at them, they've been gunned down in the streets. They've stood up to the lies told about them, by those labeling them as Islamic extremists, by those who say they're being influenced by "outside agitators," by those like Senator John McCain, who brands what's happening in Egypt as a "virus that must be contained." The police have attacked them, the army has threatened them, has made every attempt to shut down the flow of information, including removing news journalists from the streets, taking them who knows where. The army has cut off their food and water supplies.

And still they come.

I wonder how many of them, along with their children, could be fed on all that Super-Bowl money--ad money, football money, money spent on bets on the game, money spent on airline tickets, gasoline, hotels, parties, fine dining, booze, and whores.

How many in my home town could be fed on that money? In my county alone, a fifth of children under the age of 18 live in extreme poverty. In my state, Texas, a quarter of them suffer from food insecurity or outright hunger.

The U.S. President, Barack Obama, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, have told the Egyptians they support them in their cause. Of course, they believe in democracy and human rights. They said they want a peaceful, orderly transition from Hosni Mubarak to the newly selected--not elected--Vice President--Omar Suleiman. Suleiman, the former head of Egyptian Intelligence, the C.I.A.'s point-man in Egypt for renditions and torture.

The President said he would journey to Texas if his beloved team, the Bears, were in the running. But they didn't make it. So today he will be hunkered down in the White House watching the Super Bowl. His guests include entertainers--Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. He did not say he would journey to Cairo to stand in solidarity with a people who have endured thirty years of life under a brutal dictator.

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