Lessons from Egypt

I sat down with my kids to watch the news from Egypt this week. Yes, even the little ones. I wanted them to see people demonstrating for freedom and standing up for what they believe. The experience has led to some interesting conversations.

First, shortly after I told them how the Egyptian people are tired of a leader who treats them unfairly and doesn't let them have their freedom, it was time for our evening chores. The 10 year old announced: "Mom, I'm fighting for my freedom! I am not going to do my chore!" So...I am Mubarek in this scenario? Civics are more complicated and nuanced than I thought.

Second, one of the kids asked me this question: "Mom, if you lived in Egypt, would you be out there in the streets doing what all those people are doing?" I told them that I would. I said it was important to stand up for yourself, for human rights like freedom and dignity, for something you believe in. Then I thought about them: where would these kids be while I was out there in the streets with a fist in the air? At the same time, Lola asked: "Would you take us with you?" No way, I told them. This made me think of the mothers of Egypt. And all of the women in Egypt who are so absent from the pictures we are seeing on TV and the internet. I told the kids that I would have to see if I could demonstrate while also keeping my children safe, and also that I would have to consider the possibility of something bad happening to me. "That would be bad for you guys, so I might choose to stay with you, rather than risking being injured or killed. So I guess the real answer is, I don't know. But I do know that I would want to be there, and that I would support the demonstrators and teach my children to do the same."

Third, I asked them if they noticed anything about the crowds. "They're all angry?" Vincenzo offered. "There are a lot of them?" suggested Lola. They didn't notice the absence of women, as I had hoped they would. So I pointed out to them how few women were present. Lola said: "That's because they're all at home taking care of their kids!" Little as I know about Egypt, I picked my way through a general explanation of how the country is 90% Muslim and that in many Muslim countries, women cannot be as involved in public life as they are here and other places. So yes, some are home taking care of children, deciding that's a better place for them to be. But not all Egyptian women have children, and even among those who do, there are certainly many who would like to participate in the movement happening around them. They can't, because of the culture they live in. Lola: "That's just wrong." Yes, it is, my dear.

Fourth, my son made an Egypt scene out of legos, complete with army tanks. The scene is playing out on our coffee table as I type. I think this means he is a tactile learner.

I am surprised at how much I do not know about Egypt and the other countries experiencing upheaval this week. I have much to learn. My kids and I will learn together.

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