...busting up my brains for the words

Monday, July 25, 2005

Sympathy for egypt

In the building where I work downtown there is a convenience store owned and operated by a lovely Egyptian family. I go there often to buy snacks in the course of my day and I've come to know this family on just a surface level of smiles and "thank you"s.
When the resort city of Sharm el-Sheik was struck by terrorists last Friday, my thoughts went out to this family. Perhaps someone they knew was hurt or killed in the blasts. Perhaps they have friends or relatives who would be hindered by the loss of tourist trade in their homeland.

And there are other thoughts, as well. America is at war. Muslims are too often targeted with hatred and misunderstandings because of their faith. Surely, this family would have to be at least a bit guarded in the wake of the London bombings. What if another terrorist attack occurs in the United States? I wouldn't want these Egyptians to have to endure silence and uncertainty, imagining the worst, perhaps from their customers.

It is common courtesy to express condolences and sympathy with people when tragedy and harm befall them or befall their land and loved ones. So today being Monday, the first day in the convenience shop since the bombing, I took time to express these condolences to, Neshwa, the Egyptian wife as she stood behind the cash register. She didn't know what I was talking about, at first. She and the entire family do speak English. But I think it seemed the topic was too far removed from her thoughts in that store. Most, if not all, of the customers she faces are oblivious to any such consideration. I think it may be politically incorrect to acknowledge that the folks running the store are in the slightest way different from anyone else. But when I said the name Sharm el-Sheik, there was recognition in her expression.
It was difficult for me to extend sympathy sincerely to this woman, as she laughed my ovation off. She tut-tutted me (no pun intended) that it's alright...these things always happen and it's not important.

Hmmmmmm. Dozens of innocent people were slaughtered in her homeland and it's "not important"?! Of course, it's impossible for me to know what her rationale is. I don't know her so well as to press the point. It is possible that the family has made a conscious decision to downplay any acknowledgements as it could be bad for business. Perhaps it is better if everybody just pretends there is no war, that no one is dead, that there is no terror.

I don't know the answers to these questions. It's all very strange, this war. A war that is claiming lives, a war upon which so very much hinges yet is pretended not to exist.

Maybe this is one reason why I write a blog. Here, I can express my sympathies for the people of Sharm el-Sheik, for the people of Egypt and for a lovely, good-hearted Egyptian Muslim family running a convenience store in Minneapolis.

Because I think it is important.


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