Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pan-Arabism: Is it Dead?

I thought so, but then a young man from Tunisia ignited a nationwide revolution (and by nation, I mean the Arab nation, regardless of the number of countries) and that made me think for a while.

I saw how Jordanians followed the events in Tunis day after day, I myself was plastered to my computer screen, had up-to-date info on the developments, the number of casualties. I was worried, I was hopeful, as if Tunis was my own country, and as much as I’d like to say that this was because I sympathize with human beings in distress, it wasn’t, because honestly, I would have cared if this was a non-Arab country, but not as much as I did here.

Now before people jump to the conclusion that I’m a racist and that I think Arabs are better than other races, let me ask you this: do you like your aunt more than your mother? Of course not! No matter how much you love your aunt, your mother will always be a special case, even if your aunt was a better person.*

As a Jordanian, I can’t say that I know much about Tunis, I’ve never met a Tunisian in my life, I’ve never been to Tunis, I just know its location on the map and that it’s a very beautiful country. However, a poor street vendor sets himself alight in protest of unemployment and poverty and Tunis is suddenly a part of my world. The joy I felt the first time I read the words “coup d’état” (even though that wasn’t true the first time) was like nothing I’d experienced before, and it wasn’t only me, I saw it in the eyes of every member of my family.

Ten days after Bouazizi passes away, the president flees the country. Again, plastered to our TVs, worried about the protesters, our brothers, being shot at by snipers, we were worried as if they were truly a part of my family, and when that dictator fled Tunis it was a victory for all Arabs, not just Tunisians, although we cannot and will never deny, that they were the ones brave enough to stand up for their rights and start this wave of new found self-respect.

Same goes for Egypt, except this time Egypt is closer, geographically and therefore culturally, and it could also be the fact that there are many Egyptian workers in Jordan, we’ve known them and lived with them for years, beside the “Umm el Donya” factor, of course.

Again, the Jan25 revolution felt like it belonged to the Arab world and not just Egypt, and the second Omar Sulieman (and the guy standing behind him of course) announced that Hosni Mubarak had “stepped down” [been deposed], sounds of cheering and clapping were heard in almost every house in Amman.

In the meantime, the pot that had been slowly cooking in Libya began to boil and that maniac who calls himself “Leader of the Revolution” panicked and started killing every living soul that came in sight. And like Tunis, my knowledge of anything Libyan approached zero, I’m not proud to say this but I couldn’t name more than two Libyan cities, I just knew they had a leader who probably contributes to 75% of creepy craziness in the world (the remaining 25% can be found in the mind of any Hollywood filmmaker).

The existence of dictators is not news to anyone, oppression has been there since the dawn of time but what amazed me was how much connected we, at least I, felt to Arabs through all of this, sure, I would sympathize if this happened in a country that I didn’t even know existed, but not to this extent.

It looks like we (Arabs) are united after all, the bond may be invisible, but no one can deny it, whose eyes didn’t tear up watching that Tunisian man wandering the street of Habib Bourguiba shouting that Tunisians are free? Whose heart didn’t break seeing the pictures of Qaddafi’s victims in the streets? And who of us didn’t wish to be in Tahrir Square with the Egyptian protesters?

Pan-Arabism might be dead, but at least the emotional part of it is still alive, even if it took hundreds of victims for us to realize it, I just hope things don’t go back to the way they were because I’d hate to think that we’re united in times of crises only.

* This argument is only valid for normal people.

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