Reflecting On Egypt While Watching the Fireworks in America

A few nights ago, I took my little boys to see the fireworks in Lexington, MA while my wife stayed home with our little daughter. Our oldest (he’s 5) is a little uncomfortable with the noise and intensity of a live fireworks display. Our second (he’s 3) loves them and kept announcing to those near us, “That’s the biggest one I’ve eveeer seeeen!!” (It was cute the first dozen or so times, “Ok buddy, you gotta stop saying that now …”)

We settled in on the hill overlooking the park, laying on the ground on top of our hoodies. My arm around the one slowly uncovering his eyes, my other hand around the other’s mouth muting his play by play analysis, my eyes were on the colorful night sky and a good bit of my mind was thinking about Egypt. I wanted to believe that many other men were holding their sons while grateful for their future, particularly in Egypt.

Earlier that day when Morsi was booted, I didn’t know what to think. Things were exciting, uncertain, disturbing, and potentially promising all at the same time.
So I updated my Facebook status and tweeted:

I’ve mentioned before how I feel inadequate in talking about the politics of the MiddleEast (many others should admit the same frankly). My parents immigrated here before I was born, my first language is English, my second is sarcasm and I afflict my family and friends with my poor imitation of my Arabic. I’m pretty “Americanized” but I’ll always have a big place in my heart for Egyptians and I take seriously Jesus’ mandate of loving all my neighbors.

As we were sitting on the hill waiting for the show, our five year old interrupted my wandering mind and asked, “Why do we do fireworks?”
I answered, “Well it’s for celebration of the freedoms we enjoy and they shoot them in the sky for everyone to see.”
He followed up with “But why?” Which I took to mean about the fireworks in particular. I wanted to tell him because they’re fairly inexpensive and hologram technology to project a cool documentary of the story of American Independence on to the canvas of a dark, starry night was yet many years away (Come on Apple – let’s get on that!) but then he could have also meant, “What do the fireworks mean existentially?” (just about every question by a five year old is existential, right?). Luckily I didn’t have to answer as the show began but it got me thinking about life, my kids’ lives, our trajectory, the events in Egypt and how we got here.

My parents were born and raised in Egypt and immigrated to the States in the mid-seventies. I, and later my siblings, would be born here and our family has always been grateful that we’ve been able to live with religious freedom and an opportunity to have a home, work hard, run a business and lay roots in our community. This is often called the “American Dream” and as thankful as we were to have employment, secure mortgages, have access to education, and enjoy times of recreation and vacations, my family was even more grateful for the opportunity to practice the convictions of our Christian faith.

Often my parents would say, “We didn’t immigrate, work hard and sacrifice so we could have nice things, live selfishly, ignore God and perish (in Hell). (Loose interpretation of my Arabic comprehension). My parents, grandmothers, aunts and uncles would often warn us of the dark side of this “American Dream.” This is not an anti-American sentiment, but rather a caution against indulgence, selfish-living and the abuse of power and privilege.

Most healthy people in our world desire to live in peace, enjoy simple freedoms of home, food, work, education, raise a family, have an opportunity to work hard, contribute to the common good, have a sustainable future for their children and loved ones and practice their faith (or non-faith) freely. Those are basic human rights and many of these are neglected throughout the world, some have had their access limited (even here in the US) and of course, this is why 30 million Egyptians gathered in the streets this week, approximately three million on Tahrir Square.

This is why this isn’t an actual coup. Come on media people, stop reading the script and wake up! A quick word about this military coup nonsense: When a President takes office (yes in the country’s first democratic election), does a worse job than the dictator he replaces, seeks only the prosperity of his loyalists, continues to allow 80% of those under 29 years old to remain unemployed, looks the other way at violence targeting women and persecuted minority groups and then appoints himself virtually impeachable as an amendment to the new constitution while millions are living in squalor, poverty and power outages in the desert heat – well, if you have sympathy for that individual, then we know where you stand but it isn’t on the side marked by justice, freedom or basic human dignity. When this individual watches the fireworks show, they think of the establishment, maybe their office and status but they don’t think of anyone else. Don’t call it a coup.

Right now, many Christian Middle-Easterners are gathering at regional church conferences. There’s a couple up here near Boston, my parents and brother are at one in Jersey (my brother is actually teaching students at that one) and there are a number near Philly, DC, and around the country. There’s a lot of conversation going on, many are sharing their stories trickling in from their mother-country, and they are in deep prayer for all those in Egypt right now.

If you would, we invite you to pray with us:
Pray against the violence on the streets, the violence against women, and the violence against Protestant and Coptic Christians.
Pray for the interim leadership, the new election process, and a stabler society beginning now.
Pray for a better future for those in Egypt, the Middle East, and wherever injustice reigns.
I’m praying for God’s mercy, and His goodness. I’m praying things will be better in Egypt (and here) as we sit as a family at next year’s fireworks show.

To catch up on what was alluded, please read:

Egypt’s Revolution Part II

How Egypt’s President Precipitated a Crisis

Gang rape, the dark side of Egypt’s protests

Update: Coptic priest killed, activists blame MB for sectarianism


  1. Ryan Fitzpatrick says:

    Great post, Tim. You are right about not calling it a coup. Legitimate power only stems from what the people themselves have chosen to delegate to leaders. The people of Egypt gave it to Morsy before, and they took it away the other day. That’s legitimate, and thats pure democracy.

Speak Your Mind