Arabs and the Circle of Life

For us Arabs, this month has definitely not been short of news. Libya is in the middle of a revolution. Syria is in flames. And the Palestinians, if you haven’t heard, are about to have their own state.

Qaddafi has been in power since Nixon took office. He is now on the run, trying to escape a rebellion undertaken by his own people against him. He is being deposed in the same manner in which he rose to power. To some, that might seem ironic. I just think it’s funny.

In Arab politics, every leader has assumed power through violence and force. It should come as no surprise that their downfalls occur just the same way. Life tends to work that way. Sometimes things end just like they started.

I’ve had a few girlfriends that I first met at a bar. That’s also where we usually broke up. Every relationship I’ve started online ended with an e-mail… all 25 of them. I met a really great girl last week at the library. I’m not looking forward to breaking up while whispering.

Many have been surprised at the speed in which these revolutions have taken form. In the Middle East, though, big things happen quickly. Small things take forever. In Mubarak’s Egypt, it probably would’ve taken months to get a driver’s license. But it only took the Egyptians less than a month to send their tyrant off. We are hard workers, but efficiency in everyday life has never been one of our strong suits. We have little problem, however, expressing our anger quickly and loudly.

Arabs around the world have been viewing the revolutions happening in their lands with a range of emotions. Tunisia was a time of isolated joy. “Wow, good for Tunisia,” we thought. Then they started demonstrating in Egypt. “This is cool, but Mubarak’s not going anywhere,” we muttered. But then it got bigger, stronger, and louder. And then he was gone. Egypt made it real. Then came the uprisings in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen. Large demonstrations also took place in Algeria, Jordan, and Morocco. And of course in Libya, we’re seeing a full-scale revolution. Palestinians even got in on the fun, creating havoc on Israel’s Lebanese and Syrian borders.

Of course, it’s no surprise that we Palestinians started up. We are professional protestors. I remember growing up in Philadelphia, where my parents would sometimes wake us up early on a Saturday morning and stuff us all into our station wagon. Three hours later, we would be wearing keffiyehs, marching in Washington, DC. We got to the point in our chants, even if it never rhymed. “1-2-3-4, we don’t want your racist war… 5-6-7-8… get out of Palestine!”

What started out as euphoria for Tunisia and Egypt has turned into a mixture of caution, worry, and even some conspiracy theories. There are many among us who believe that the uprising in Syria has Western elements. In Libya, of course, the rebels are being openly supported by Western nations. Many Arab regimes, like that of Saddam Hussein, came about because of Western support. Sometimes things end just like they started.

The Western involvement makes some of us uneasy. I say, “So what?” Is it really better to have Qaddafi and Assad in power than to have them ousted by Western-backed revolutions? In my experience, I’ve noticed it’s the first couple dates with a girl that’s really important. I don’t really care why she actually agreed to go out with me.

And we shouldn’t be too worried about it. We’ve seen that American-backed leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan have been ineffectual. At the end of the day, and America will eventually have to understand this, democratic freedom might be something that the United States can help the Arabs get, but it can’t be something it helps them administer. In other words, you can buy me a gift, but you can’t tell me how to use it, no matter how much you paid for it.

In the middle of all this Arab-heavy news, Israel is even making an appearance. The Israeli ambassador to the US just held a Ramadan dinner at his Washington residence. This of course means that right before dinner, the Israeli ambassador’s house will become a Muslim prayer space. Of course, most of Israel was already built on Muslim prayer spaces. This Ramadan dinner is probably just a public relations move on the part of the Israeli government. But that’s OK with me. I’m a little more optimistic… Sometimes things end just like they started.

About Amer Zahr 181 Articles
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."


  1. Good for your parents, making you wear a keffiyeh and going to protest in Washington D.C.! There should be much more of that kind of activity. Great article, may the state of Palestine prosper!

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