If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

John F. Kennedy (via thinkprogress)

Great quote. It still feels relevant now. But there is one thing I wanted to point out: He did not mean the US-American poor. The quote is taken from his inaugural speech 1961: 

To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

Not only does this passage have a certain condescending neo-colonial tint, but it reminded me of the criticism of Obama’s speech toward Egypt and how he apparently does not direct the same criticism at his own country. This is all part of a (Western) trend to “other” things like poverty or civil rights abuses.  It’s the poor in Africa that need “our” help, the poor in New York just need to get off their asses and find a job. It’s those evil Arabs that commit police brutality, our own boys in blue are just enforcing the law and protecting their own. 

I do not want to compare poverty, police brutality etc. in country A versus country B. The countries are different and sure, on average, “we” in the West are better off and more democratic than other places (especially by our own definitions…) My point is simply this: It is always easier to criticize the Other than the Self. 

While the reaction was entirely predictable, it should be resisted. Not to cover up or deny that sexual violence is a very real problem in Egypt, which is notorious for its high levels of street harassment, but because it’s wrong to blame Egypt for this and pretend that it isn’t a worldwide phenomenon that crosses cultural and religious boundaries. If street harassment and sexual assault in a culture precludes the people having a right to self-government, then there is no nation on the planet that can be a democracy. In her otherwise good response to this tragedy, the Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri does regrettably also give the “us v them” narrative some juice, arguing that in the United States, unlike Egypt, women can walk the streets “unmolested”. But the very website she uses correctly to identify the problem of street harassment in Egypt also has studies that show up to 100% of American women suffer street harassment, as well. It’s not uncommon in the US for groups of men to take jubilatory occasions and crowds as permission to sexually assault and rape women, either. Such attacks occur at college parties, high school dances and rock concerts, usually with a crowd of onlookers who don’t intervene, as happened with Logan until the army and a group of women saved her. The response from some quarters in the US should quell any notion that we’ve somehow grown past our issues with sexual violence that still plague Egypt.

Adding insult to Lara Logan’s injury | Amanda Marcotte | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Excellent article by Amanda Marcotte on the sexual assault on CBS reporter Lara Logan, the (US) reaction to the assault and rape culture in general. 




Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers.

These people are amazing.

This gives me chills. This is solidarity. 

Truly amazing. The question of what will follow Mubarak aside, there is so much grassroots-level democratic beauty in the week long protest in Egypt. And it is so sad to see this protest being turned violent by the clashes with the “pro-Mubarak” side. (Yet you might argue that these clashes were almost inevitable. Which is also sad.)