09 July 2020

To continue from yesterday’s post, those questions also apply to scripture.  What do we do with the Bible and the Book of Mormon?  Scripture is nowhere near as simple as saying it’s the word of God.  I don’t even know how people can think that, given the chaotic nature of scripture.  It’s so very human.  It’s how people interact with God much more than the other way around.  

And that’s why I love scripture, even though it’s telling a different story than what we usually say it’s telling.  But it also gives the reader an important responsibility to use those human stories well, and not just with the traditional readings.  Take Captain Moroni for example, in the Book of Mormon.  Lots of people see his story as a great example of self-defense and apply it to today, either to justify war or to go as far as stocking up on crazy weapons in case the government irritates you.  And I do think any reasonable reading of the Book of Mormon allows someone to defend herself, even though the Mormon militias are utterly wrong.

But, that’s not all that the BOM has to say about self-defense, because a few chapters earlier we get the story of a group of people who will not defend themselves.  That group is generally portrayed as doing something that is excessively righteous, but their non-violent resistance also leads to less death and destruction overall than defending themselves would have.  What do we do with that?  Why do we glorify self-defense, but not non-violence? And what does that mean for us today?

And then what about the racism in the BOM?  And the justification for destroying Native Americans?  And lots of other troubling things?  They’re not going to go away, even if we change official interpretation now, because those ideas have greatly influenced many members of the church.  

I love history, and I love scripture.  But what we do with them now is the most important question.

08 July 2020

We watched Hamilton twice this weekend, as many times as we had time for.  Someday I need to watch it again, several times.  I pretty much never watch films, even when I’m sitting in the room.  I just listen and do a puzzle or something.  But I paid complete attention to everything both times and it wasn’t close to enough.

I’m fascinated by so many of the conversations about Hamilton.  The people who say it’s not historically accurate, or that it glorifies the founders and glosses over slavery.  They’re right, but they’re also wrong.  Hamilton is not Hamilton, and I don’t think it ever pretended to be.  It does glorify the founders in some ways, but in a different way than has been done in that past, and it’s not only glorifying them.  No one comes out of the musical looking all that great, except possibly Washington.  

But here’s the thing.  There’s history, and then there’s what we do with history.  I love history, but what we do with it afterward is at least as interesting, and part of history.  Hamilton is part of our story now, just as much as Hamilton is, because it has influenced the way many people think about early US history.  It’s not inherently more or less accurate or influential than 1776, but both versions choose to tell the story in certainly ways, and those decisions say a lot.  

07 July 2020

Corona cases have been dropping in Egypt for a week now, and we had fewer than 1000 cases reported yesterday.  I find that a little difficult to believe, but also hopeful.  Many of my friends are relying on case numbers dropping to begin to think about returning.

06 July 2020

I’ve been going through our photos from Uzbekistan recently, since I never really did that before.  I post lots of photos of Cairo on Facebook because it’s someone easier to do it there than here, and I realized that I could get through the Uzbekistan photos by just taking it a day at a time.  I’m glad to finally be getting them organized. I love Uzbekistan so much.

05 July 2020

We watched Hamilton yesterday.  I’ve read so much about it, but never seen it or listened to it, except a couple of songs. I loved it.  We all did. I’m going to watch it again today.

It was a perfect 4th of July thing to do.  I’ve been wanting to do a US history class with my son this summer, since he knows almost nothing about US history, but I can’t do the standard thing. US history is so much more than what I learned in school in Utah and Hamilton is a good resource.

02 July 2020

So, I’m not finished with yesterday’s topic, and posting here is a way to sit on my hands so I don’t post elsewhere.

I hate the idea of the “worthy poor.” It is too easy to let personal feelings get involved in that judgment, rather than whatever seemingly objective standard you have set up to determine whether someone is worthy of your help.  How can anyone possibly not be worth helping? 

Here’s another concern about self-reliance. It’s too easy to make it all about someone else (who may or may not be “worthy”) individually dealing with their problems.  But one major reason that we have communities is to help meet the needs of those in the community, and to not just dump it all on one person when those needs are overwhelming.  And often what a person needs is just to feel like their community cares about them.

And let’s not ever force self-reliance on children.

01 July 2020

Rather than posting this elsewhere, where it wouldn’t be appreciated, I’ll write this here. I probably haven’t griped about this in at least a few days.

I don’t like the way the word “self-reliance” is used a lot of the time.  It’s just a substitute for “don’t bother me with your problems.”   It doesn’t have to be that way, and it isn’t always.  Most people really would rather not rely on someone else to deal with the basic necessities of life.

But those of us who are self-reliant actually aren’t, not really.  I don’t need to ask anyone for help with my groceries, but that’s not because I’m working for pay.  Why does a privileged white woman get told that it’s morally right to not work to stay home with her children, but a low-income Black woman get told that it’s immoral to want to be the one to take care of her children?  My husband has a good job, but he also had access to good pubic schools, parents who gave him a place to live during college and a steady job to make enough money to pay tuition, and enough privilege to get student loans to go to law school.  He is white and male which makes it much easier to get a job and he has never had trouble finding one.  He looks “self-reliant,” but there has been a tremendous amount of scaffolding in his life that those who are like him dismiss because they have the same scaffolding and it feels like everyone should.

But everyone doesn’t.  Some of my best friends here are actually the ones who are self-reliant, because they have never had that scaffolding. When war started in their homes, they picked up and went someplace else to live and work because they knew they couldn’t survive at home. When they got someplace else, they found jobs with no government help and figured out ways to educate their children.  Then they went back home after decades, and then did it all over again when war started again.  They have never, ever been able to count on anyone to help them. Not their churches, not their government, not their families, not the UN.  Sometimes ones of those has come through in moments of complete desperation, but usually not.  

So why am I considered to be self-reliant, and they are not? You keep using that word, but I don’t think it means what you think it means.

30 June 2020

There’s a long weekend coming up because Egypt suddenly decided to move non-religious holidays to attach to weekends.  Today was supposed to be a holiday, but now it’s on Thursday.  This is a good idea.

I’m not sure what we’ll do though. There’s not much to do, at least from a holiday perspective, and I think my husband is taking off more days next week.  I have a huge long list of things to do, so I won’t be bored.  But it would be nice to do something fun.

29 June 2020

There is almost nothing I can control during corona.  I can’t bring my evacuated friends home, find jobs for unemployed friends, or tell my boys what their university will look like in the fall. I won’t be able to see most of my family, including my boys, for a very long time. I can’t change others’ behavior either.

But there is one thing I can control, and that’s whether I contribute to the spread of corona. All I have to do is wear a mask and physically distance myself from others, especially when I’m indoors, plus stay home when I’m sick and wash my hands. It is a relief to feel like I can do something about corona but also be able to get on with my life.  I know that wearing a mask doesn’t do much good for me physically unless others wear theirs, but it does a lot for me mentally, no matter what others choose to do.

28 June 2020

There is a lot to do this week.  I just need to keep plugging through my list and it will be okay.

Our little library is getting starting with donations.

25 June 2020

I don’t think I have to go anywhere today.  I can’t believe it.

24 June 2020

Egypt has decided to coexist with corona. The curfew is ending, everything is opening, usually at limited capacity, and churches and mosques can open (although not for Friday prayers or Sunday services).  We will see what happens.  It was always inevitable that we’d have to get to this point.  

The government has set earlier closing hours than before for social places than before corona and said they’d be permanent.  I’m not exactly sure why, although I’d heard they’d be doing that. 

23 June 2020

I walked a lot yesterday. It was hot. I took lentils to a friend’s house, went to another friend’s house to chat and read with her little boy, and then to the orthodontist, and last of all to another friend’s house to read to her children.  Except for the reading with the little child part, I stayed away from people and I wore a mask.  I hope that’s enough, because there’s stuff that has to get done.  Generally I don’t spend much time in others’ homes though.

22 June 2020

So, I’m helping to get a small food pantry and hopefully lending library started.  It will all be very small, but hopefully will make a difference for at least a few families.  The logistics are not uncomplicated, but I’m not the only one working on this so that makes it much better. And I’m excited about the library part! I just wish that ordering books were a realistic option. 

21 June 2020

So, this is a busy week, but I’ll be getting good things in place which is nice.

I did a bunch of posts on FB the last few days about refugees, especially the refugees I know here, for World Refugee Day. That meant I mostly ignored Juneteenth, which I didn’t want to do. But Black lives matter here too, so that will have to be good enough.

We seem to be hovering around 1500 new cases a day here, give or take a few hundred.

Half of all Egyptian families are now having to borrow money to get by.

I’m still annoyed at the stupidity of so many Americans in not doing simple things to reduce the spread of corona.

18 June 2020

I am so tired of Americans complaining about corona restrictions.  You should have the greatest capacity in the world to control and mitigate corona, yet you won’t in so many parts of the country.  People with fewer resources all over the world have very limited ways to deal with corona.  Here in Egypt, we’re just hoping that enough people mask because that’s really all we have.  There are so many hungry people here because of social distancing.  

And I just don’t think that restrictions on religious gatherings have been unreasonable. All of Egypt’s religious buildings have been closed since March.  I’m very glad, because churches and mosques tend to be crowded here during prayers or church services.   States in the US generally haven’t restricted religious services as much as they have here, yet people feel their religious freedom is threatened.  We need to think outside the box in what it means to worship together, to gather, and to practice our religion.

16 June 2020

On an online discussion board I’ve been part of for 17 years, there’s a discussion about who’s back to normal right now. It obviously varies by where you live and what kinds of things signal normal life to you, and the woman who posted it desperately wants normalcy again.  But honestly, normalcy isn’t possible for most people.

For me, things won’t be normal or okay till international travel is normal. I can’t see my most of my children or my parents till that happens, and honestly, I’m not all that optimistic about that till next summer.  I have so many friends stuck in the US and Canada right now, and things won’t be normal here till they’re back.

Church won’t be normal for a long time.  I’m not interested in going back to a crowded room till there’s a vaccine, and I can’t see how there can even be a second hour of smaller children’s classes.  

I heard about someone needing an emergency appendectomy here the other day and she was able to get in the hospital.  That was a positive.  If you have corona symptoms though, they’re full.  Hospitals aren’t going to get back to normal for a long time.

I’m not sure when work can return to normal.  Will my husband be working from home part time for months?  A year?  And what will school look like?

Those are all things for me.  But when will jobs come back?  How are millions of people in Egypt going to keep paying for their rent and eating?  What does distance education look like in a place like Egypt?  What about the huge informal education sector that has almost no resources?  

It seems like we need to think about new systems rather than aiming for what we used to have. In so many ways.

15 June 2020

I did a quick trip to the Northern Cemetery with a friend yesterday.  She’s leaving later this week. It was so nice to get out.

We found this artwork.  It’s titled “The Art in the Time of Corona” and is dated June 2020.

14 June 2020

I’m going to the Northern Cemetery again today, with a friend who leaves this week but never went there. It’s obviously not the best time to go, since everything is still closed, but this is her last chance and it’s better than nothing.  

I’m going somewhere next week with another friend who is leaving soon and trying to think of the best place to visit right now.  Maybe we could just walk down Muizz Street for as long as we wanted to?

11 June 2020

One worthwhile thing I’ve managed to do during coronavirus is exercise more.  I was getting a basic amount of exercise before since I was out walking and climbing stairs so often in daily life, but it wasn’t really enough. Then coronavirus hit and my son started making cookies almost every day, and I knew that I had to stop sitting around all the time.  So for the last 6 weeks I’ve been doing much better, plus it’s a good time to listen to an audiobook.  I’d love it if we had an elliptical, but my current system is working too.