Reflections on Egypt and Libya: The Body as Bloody Canvas

As noted yesterday, I was at the protest at the US Embassy in Cairo. Really, it struck me very much as a non-event. Similar to when the Israeli Embassy was stormed last year, it seems like the work of a small few, looking to make trouble, perhaps even allowed to do so. It fits in with the manipulations all around this country, and hard to tie to any one party.

I am not pleased it happened, of course, but I can accept it. The burning of the American flag is simply a political statement. I have long learned to live with diatribes against American foreign policy, and watching a flag burn is in several ways easier to digest than someone arguing with you over why America hates Muslims, or something of the like.

But when I learned this afternoon that the American ambassador to Libya was killed in a vicious attack on the consulate there, it was a different matter entirely. My stomach sank and my day was placed on hold, as the facts settled in. Burn the flag, curse my nation, do as you wish. Many times, there is a semblance of legitimacy, if not justification, behind their frustration.

But do not kill.

Yesterday I stated I was somewhat uncomfortable among the protestors. It was mostly in the beginning, when their chants were most vociferous and individuals melted into a collective whole. After a while, it was fine, as I realized they were more summoning the will to protest than driven by rage. I always feel somewhat ashamed when I take note of my reticence; these are people who must be engaged as people. In 99% of the cases, simple human decency wins the day and creates a relationship, however temporary. It is my job and joy to serve them, to help their perspectives become understandable.

But in that 1% humanity is lost and the person becomes a canvas to paint a political message in blood.

That is Libya, and it is a reminder of what is at stake, of the depths of human depravity. Yet the blood for that canvas flows from the heart, which must bleed differently if misunderstandings and antipathies are to be overcome. This is Egypt, at least for now.

But it is Libya also, and every corner of the globe. If the heart does not bleed differently life-as-existence will continue but life-as-abundance will stagnate and die.

Unless the seed falls to the ground and dies it will produce no fruit; but if it dies it will bring forth a harvest. The heart may in the 1% bleed on a canvas, but it must bleed differently in the 99%.

It is said this is true of the American ambassador. May he rest in peace.

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