Proud Owner of a Florescent Fuchsia Finger

Dearest Seif,

I have a florescent fuchsia finger, and I’m loving it.  It means I voted – for the first time in my 36 years of life.

Your dad and I decided to beat the crowd by voting early – 8:30 a.m.  We stopped by a school in the neighborhood and were greeted by military soldiers at the gate.  A line of around 30 men formed outside of the voting hall; we stood behind them.  I listened to a man who was talking to others in line, saying that he was going to vote “No” because he didn’t want to see the NDP nor the Moslem Brotherhood in power.  The men were listening respectfully, but it was clear that they wouldn’t be swayed out of their “Yes” vote.

A man dressed in a galabeya who was a few steps behind us, said, “Is there no line for women?” He refused to stand behind me and decided to cut in front of your dad instead.  A woman standing to the side instructed me to join the women’s line.  I was searching for any female to stand behind, but couldn’t find any.  I reached inside the voting hall and looked around me, confused.  A man in a suit pointed to one of the tables that didn’t have a crowd in front of it.  I pulled out my ID and gave it to a man who was busily writing in a large book.  I was silently praying to myself that he wouldn’t ask me to fill out my data… such things scare me for some reason. He took my ID, gave me a voting form and pointed to a curtain.

Behind the curtain, I studied the voting form that was the size of an A3 folded paper.  I wanted to read what was written, but being slow in Arabic, it would have taken nearly forever.  I stared at the two large circles with “No” written under one, and “Yes” written under the other.  I wondered what type of mark I was supposed to make.  An “x”? A check mark? I decided to draw a large check mark and was contemplating on whether or not to draw a smiley face inside as well, when a man came up next to me, waiting for me to release the pen.  So much for privacy… Then again, I was taking way too long and being very silly with my thoughts.

I went back to the man who had my ID and he told me to place the paper inside the transparent box. “Should I fold it?” I asked him. “Yes,” he said.  The paper was too large to fit inside the slot without folding it; it was very obvious… I don’t know why I was that nervous.  Next, I was asked to dip my finger inside florescent ink; I decided my right pinkie would do the honors. Even though the ink seeped under my nail, I was happy.  It amused me that the color we were all marked with was a deep pink – the men must be pleased…

I went outside and found your dad still in line.  I wiggled my fuchsia finger in his face and some of the men standing in line laughed softly.  Your dad didn’t. Instead, he swiftly produced the car key and told me to wait for him.  I really wanted to hang around and watch people and hear what they were saying – to me, this was a first-time-ever on several levels.  I had to leave, though, as my presence might have made some of the men feel uncomfortable.

At the gate, a woman dressed in a galabeya told one of the guards skeptically, “Let’s see what will happen when we change the constitution!” The man smiled and told her, “All good things, insha’Allah.” From the car, I watched all sorts of people walk through the school gate; people from all walks of life.  Men, women, urban clothes, rural clothes, senior citizens, youth… It all seemed peaceful; almost silent.  A man passed by my car and he had the biggest grin on his face; it exuded pride.  He was placing his ID back inside his wallet.

Your dad arrived a few minutes later. I got out of the car and posed with my famous pinkie as your dad took a picture.  I took a picture of him as well, which was swiftly uploaded onto his facebook profile.  We got a few stares from people walking by.

A group of about eight foreign women drove by us.  Your dad told me that while he was waiting in line, the foreign women walked in together and waited for their turn to vote.   Your dad heard a few men and women ask, “What are they doing here?” and  “Do they think they have the right to vote?” A man walked into the hall and asked one of the “judges” if foreigners were allowed to vote.  The judge responded that as long as they had an ID that said they were Egyptian, then they had the right.  The foreigners were asked if they were Egyptian, and they said, “Yes; we have the nationality.” They had the ID cards to prove it.  A woman from the line said, “What if the IDs are fake?” Another man went to get a guard to check the validity of their vote.  The IDs stated that they were Egyptian.  As the women neared the voting table, a man asked in broken English what their place of origin was.  The women responded Germany and Switzerland; they were married to Egyptians.  The man didn’t look too pleased.

Just before leaving, I caught a glimpse of the disgruntled women your dad told me about, saying to each other, “Just because they have the nationality doesn’t mean that they have a right to make decisions regarding our country!” Her mother said, “We don’t want their votes!” Another woman behind them was saying over the phone, “She has the nationality… I swear I’m telling you the truth!” It made me feel sad to see such intolerance, but it didn’t surprise me.  Our lovely State TV has been feeding people with mouthfuls of “conspiracy theories”.

We have a long, long way to go… But a significant step has been made.  Is it in the right or wrong direction? Time will tell.  Voting made me proud; it gave me a taste of democracy.  It made me proud when a student of mine called me to try to swing my vote – it showed me that youth are taking the time to become more proactive.  It made me smile when my sister was asked by a total stranger at the women’s toilet, “Which way will you vote? I’m confused!” It showed me that women were finally feeling empowered to make a decision.  It made me proud that some members in our family were voting “Yes” and some were voting “No”, yet we were able to respect each other’s differences.  It made me proud that a friend flew all the way to Egypt just to vote.  It showed me that Egypt has nestled inside many dedicated hearts.

This is what the beginning of democracy is about.  It is so new; it is so beautiful.  I hope that during your lifetime, you get the chance to dip your pinkie in many florescent fuchsia ink bottles.  My dad tells me this quote all the time; now I will tell it to you: “I am only one, but I AM one.  I can’t do everything, but I CAN do something.” Make your voice heard!

Love you,

Your still florescent-nailed mother, Rania

Published in: on March 20, 2011 at 11:45 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Love!

  2. What a wonderful legacy for your son! Beautifully said!

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