Darrel, Mohammed – Where are you and why did you die?


Egyptian anti-government activists clash with riot police in Cairo in this file photo. Thousands of anti-government protesters have poured into the streets of Egypt, demanding more political freedoms. AP photo

Egyptian anti-government activists clash with riot police in Cairo in this file photo. Thousands of anti-government protesters have poured into the streets of Egypt, demanding more political freedoms. AP photo, Turkish Daily News, 1-9-12

Forty years ago, or there about, I started to think about a musical based on World War I; the idea came to me while I was walking my neighborhood.  On my walks, I often passed a VFW Hall – you know, veterans of foreign wars. The building was named after Darrel Dunkel, the first person from Reno, Nevada killed in WWI. That war gave birth to the VFW and a very short lived belief that WWI was the war that would end wars; walking around Reno in the 1970s, I was living in a world that had experienced constant war since WWI ended.  The United States has been in a few, WWII, Korea and Vietnam at the point – but there many, many other wars besides.

The title song of my imaginary musical was dedicated to Private Dunkel – “Darrel Dunkel, Darrel Dunkel, where are you? Where are you?  Darrel Dunkel, Darrel Dunkel, Why did you die, why did you die?”  The complete musical would have explored all of the war and strife in the 50 plus years between his death and the 1970s – always returning to that refrain, asking Darrel once again where he was and why he had died.  If I were to attempt the same thing today it would have to be called Mohamed Bouazizi, after the young man whose suicide, December of 2010, is said to have started the Arab Spring.

Looking back into history, that is always a valid question – why? Caught up in the moment and the passions of nationalism, tribalism or religious fervor people say and think one thing, but at some point afterwards, it is difficult, if not impossible, to find anyone who still believes the mantras of war.  Time simply acts to change one’s perspectives, but how much time does it take to let go of the emotions of the moment and take a more objective point of view? Some times not much.

Lately groups of radical Salafis, they are calling themselves committees and model their committees around the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, have been going around Egypt trying to impose their values on public behavior.  They have been telling shop owners “they could no longer sell ‘indecent’ clothing, barbers could no longer shave men’s beards, and that all retail businesses should expect regular and surprise inspections to check for compliance.  The have also smashed Christmas trees and decorations in front of stores and malls, declaring the celebration of Christmas “haram” or forbidden.

In one town they raided a beauty salon, telling the women their behavior was indecent and they would be punished if they did not cease, close the shop and go home behave like modest, observant Muslim women.  The women took exception, beat the enforcers with canes and kicked them into the streets.  The committee has also met some resistance from more official, Muslim sources, Al Azhar suggested the group had no legitimacy.   Al-Nour, the official Salafi party denies any connection with the group, even though al-Nour is the party that got the votes the committee claims gives it a mandate.  The group’s response to Al Azhar was au contraire, “we have a mandate from the people.”

“The Committee, which millions of Egyptians have agreed to, and expressed their desire to see its members diligently apply God’s law, draws the attention of our brothers in Al-Azhar to what happened in the last elections when millions of citizens voted for Salafi parties,” the committee’s statement read. Al Arabiya, 1-9-12

Do they have a mandate?  Between the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party and al-Nour they have received over 60 percent of the votes thus far.   The Free Egyptians’ Party, a liberal party, is threatening to boycott the next round of election, because the Islamic parties are not playing fair.  And on occasion Tahrir Square still sees a demonstrate reminiscent of those that toppled Husni Mubarak.  It is less than a year since Mubarak was forced out of office, but it has been long enough to wonder – why?  Or maybe, just what is going on here anyway?  Mubarak is on trial for his life, lying on a bed, pretending to be dying, while he is devising ways to get all of his enemies on the witness stand.  The Army is still in control and maintaining its control with force.  A Coptic Christian business man is going be tried for blaspheme after tweeting a caricature of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in Islamic garb; Coptics and Coptic churches have been attacked.  Blogs have gone to jail, demonstrators claim to have been beaten and raped, some with video evidence to back up the claims.  The election procedures continues.

Egypt and the Arab Spring have slipped from the American media stage, the media has moved off to follow the republican presidential campaign, the defense budget and moving our focus to Asia and the Pacific – read China.  However, our lack of attention has not reduced the violence or confusion that continues in the wake of the Arab Spring in the Middle East.  Maybe it is too soon to ask, why – but it is still a difficult question to avoid.  Haven’t you wondered why about Iraq or Afghanistan at least once in the last couple of months?  Don’t you wonder if Mohamed Bouazizi, Darrel Dunkel or millions of others who have died a wars in the last century might be asking why?

 

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1 Response to “Darrel, Mohammed – Where are you and why did you die?”


  1. 1 Rex D Stock January 9, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Simply beautiful. When will they ever learn, when will they e-e-e-v–e-r learn?


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