We live in an era where polarization rules. Outspoken and opinionated, people all over the world flaunt their views regarding significant as well as insignificant matters, in the process revering or detesting by choice. This is caused by social media and immediate access to news, but it becomes daunting and disconcerting if the way issues and public figures are evaluated affect the course that a country pursues.
Take President Obama’s tenure as an example. Some Americans and non-Americans, in particular Middle Easterners, counted the hours and minutes till Obama exited the Oval Office; this while others thanked their lucky stars that Obama occupied the Oval Office when he did. Besides being an articulate communicator and a scandal free family man, Obama lifted the US from the economic abyss that preceded his presidency; that is what some say. This while others, including President Bush, Junior himself, as The New Yorker satirically mentioned, counted the days until Bush was no longer the worst president and was superseded by Obama.
Take President Trump as another example. President Trump received the worst approval ratings for a president-elect in all his recent predecessors, and yet he secured the presidency of the most powerful country in the world. During his presidential campaign, he aggravated many including the disabled, the gay community, most minorities, NATO, and those south of the border, but others hailed him as the awaited game changer, the president who will make America great again. While some waited feverishly to see him enter the White House, anti-trump protestors took to the streets and clashed with police leading to many arrests and injuries.
Trump inauguration protests were followed by the Women’s March that flooded American and worldwide cities with approximately five million marchers of which one million were in Washington, DC, alone. Americans are deeply divided on this one, and the jury is still out thus far.
In Egypt we are no better; in fact, we may be in a worse state, polarized as in no other times: from Ahly Club to Zamalek Club polarized fans, from Aboutrika’s to Tiran and Sanafir’s court cases, and, more importantly, from pro- to anti-Sisi views, Egyptians remain split.
Let’s start off with what seems insignificant but is still proof of the existing polarization. Ahly Club fans cheer their players and club all the way, as they should, but shouldn’t they cheer for Zamalek if it plays against an international club? Injuring their noses to spite their faces, they don’t, and as convoluted as it is, Ahly fans forget that Zamalek is an Egyptian club after all. The saying “My cousin and I against the stranger” should apply here, but it doesn’t.
Now to more pressing matters. Just about everyone in Egypt knows and is absolutely sure beyond any shadow of a doubt that the two islands Tiran and Sanafir are Egyptian or Saudi depending on their allegiance. Proof, maps, documents, presidential speeches were utilized to prove one’s opinion one way or another. Now that the courts ruled in favour of rejecting the transfer of the two islands to Saudi Arabia, some gloat with satisfaction. Chances are those in glee hardly heard of Tiran and Sanafir prior to the kerfuffle. Indeed, the uproar may have had little to do with sovereignty and more to do with proving one’s point and coming out as the winner.
Aboutrika is another case in point. A person can be a football star and a Muslim Brotherhood member simultaneously, but Egyptians prefer to see him as one or the other. So now that the courts added Aboutrika’s name to the terror list, Egypt is divided yet again.
Some hail Aboutrika’s successes and stardom, and the fact that any international club would’ve paid a fortune to have him join its team. The “Magician,” as he was once dubbed, had others belittling from such achievements, bringing up his support for ex-President Morsi, his commiseration of the mother of one of the Kerdassa killers, and his refusal to shake hands with Field Marshall Sisi as proof that he is pro-MB and, hence, not a loyal Egyptian but a terrorist.
The culmination of the division is in how Egyptians perceive President Sisi. From day one, while the majority of Egyptians stood beside Field Marshall Sisi, a group remained steadfast in its refusal of how ex-President Morsi was removed, the return of a military man to rule, and the method by which Rabaa was stormed. This set the stage for the ongoing and lasting critical views of anything President Sisi initiates and endorses.
President Sisi is blamed for the deep-rooted and ingrained shortcomings in Egyptian norms and the continuous flow of terrorism in Sinai. No matter how determined President Sisi is to take Egypt over the hump of demise, this group will forever focus on the underlying ills. President Sisi is, in their eyes, accountable for all that befalls Egypt unable to recognize that, in hindsight, Egypt had been ailing for decades.
Obama may have blundered and erred especially towards the Middle East, but he served Americans well; similar blemishes and successes will apply to President Trump for no one is infallible, and nothing is black or white, no pun intended.
Aboutrika’s agile abilities have nothing to do with his allegiance and loyalty, and the courts should be where the ownership of Tiran and Sanafir is decided not on Facebook and Twitter.
As for President Sisi, Egyptians should continue to expect the best from the man, ask him to work night and day for Egypt, and criticize his shortfalls; this while remaining fair and objective. While they should never overlook his failures, they should cite and appreciate his successes, recognizing the mammoth obstacles he is working against.
It is quite acceptable to think differently, but it isn’t acceptable when attitudes break the bonding thread of a country. Better yet, be divided, but don’t be divided in loving Egypt. United we must stand in that.