A letter to Egypt’s presidential hopefuls

McGill Tribune

Dear Presidential Candidate,

I promise you, even though we seem angry and persistent and uncompromising in our demand for national change today, you will find us to be a people who will gratefully settle for some pocket change tomorrow.

The fact is, we are still recovering from a traumatically abusive relationship that senselessly battered our ability to trust. Ask any psychologist about “learned helplessness,” and you will be convinced that chronic neglect can cause a disturbing level of psychological damage to a human. And if there is anything we have been for the past 30 years, it was neglected.

Although many of us may never fully heal, we will do whatever it takes to rescue our national dignity, which has been drowned in the Nile River for all these years. And when we do, we will revive our ability to scrutinize those who lead us, and we will demand nothing short of excellence. Which brings us to you.

While most candidates for office typically have to labour for months in order to convince their people that change is even needed, you did not have to trouble yourself. We are so fired up for change that it has taken every water-cannoned truck in the country to cool us down. In fact, all you have to do now is convince us that you have the best blueprint for reform.

In the past, you would have had no problem seducing us with the warmth of your charming promises and persuade us that you are nothing like our ex. Your articulate speeches would have made our hearts race with excitement, our eyes swell with hope, and our souls flap their wings into the horizon of freedom. But we learned from the Americans.

But soon enough, we will get over our painful past and throttle our recovered minds into a promising future. Soon enough, we will cough out the debris of your powerful anesthetic and wake up to the reality of who you really are. And when we do, we will not be fazed by your superpower of eloquence, because our X-ray vision will see right through your hollow words. Take a look at the Americans.

The whole world watched Senator Barack Obama promise to redeem their national pride and restore their international reputation. He convinced Americans—heck, even non-Americans!—that he was fatally allergic to everything George Bush. And they—no, we—trusted him.

Two years later, the Democratic Party suffered the most humiliating defeat of any midterm election since 1938. Today, almost half of all Americans disapprove of Obama’s performance thus far. And his ratings continue to drop.

We Egyptians, like the Americans, are no longer mesmerized by catchy slogans, and we have been immunized against the contagiousness of your charm. Your superpower of eloquence will no longer avail you, because we have acquired X-ray vision. And we will see right through your hollow words every time.

We are not interested in hearing about how un-Mubarak you plan to be, or in listening to a list of transgressions you vow never to commit.. In fact, we want very few words at all. Focus instead on building a roadmap for our country and a vision for our future.  

What we want is the process—not the promise—of change. And if you fail to deliver, we will find somebody who will. Because you do not have the power to change us, but we have the power to exchange you.

Good luck,

Mohammed Ashour

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