Friday, January 28, 2011

Laugh riots...

To be sure it's a violent bloody mess over there in Egypt. Still, I enjoyed this story in the Times today about Egyptian protesters who made nice with riot police in Alexandria for a short while this morning.

"In an incredible scene in Alexandria, the site of a more than two-hour pitched street battle ended with protesters and police shaking hands and sharing water bottles on the same street corner where minutes before they were exchanging hails of stones and tear-gas canisters were arcing through the sky. "

It recalls the "Christmas Truce" of 1914 whereupon front-line German and British combat soldiers in WWI left their respective trenches on Christmas Eve to gather on the muddy battlefields of Flanders to sing carols, exchange gifts, and play soccer.

It also recalls my own experience of being caught in a violent rock-throwing and tear-gas filled manifestation between students, anarchists, and police in Paris in the early 90s. While crossing the grassy battlefield of the Esplanade des Invalides, I was arrested by a young French officer for having a corkscrew in my pocket. I spent that day in plastic handcuffs in a Parisian police office with hundreds of protesters and innocent corkscrew bearers waiting to be "proceesed." The next day I returned to the scene of the manifestation and there behind a plexiglass shield I encountered the same young officer who had arrested me the day before. He lowered his shield, smiled, shook my hand, and offered me a cigarette. The sun was shining. I asked him if he had my (confiscated) corkscrew. He laughed and said I looked like I needed it. Looking around I noticed that many of the protesters were calmly, playfully talking to the riot police; actors on a stage just before the curtain lifts. All of us in our early 20's or thereabouts. Kids engaging, flexing coltish political muscles, new ideas, age old anger. And then a rock flew, and another, and another, the shields went up and the games began. Violent, serious games motivated by deeply heartfelt agendas - but games nonetheless.

(photo: A boy runs from a column of riot policeman during protests in downtown Cairo January 25, 2011. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)


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