I’m neither wise enough nor knowledgeable enough to have a view worthy of expressing on what’s happening in Egypt. I do know that anyone applauding anarchy is a naive fool, but I suspect the rest of you know that as well. Nature abhors a vacuum, and someone will fill the void.
What I do know, however, is that monumental and irreparable damage can happen in the blink of an eye during the brief moment when there is no one in control. With forces preoccupied, Egypt is at grave risk. Not politically, but historically. It’s an ancient civilization that possesses artifacts of priceless historical value. Stewardship of history is not high on the agenda of erstwhile anarchists. But it makes for some damn fine looting.
Some kept their heads in the midst of chaos and potential ruination. While Egypt’s antiquities were imperiled, some chose to put their bodies, their lives, at risk by standing between the relics and the protest.
Egypt’s ancient treasures appear to be safe today, after citizens, and later the military, banded together to stop looters amid an uprising that left some of the world’s most prized artifacts perilously vulnerable to common thieves.
Egyptians, desperate to protect their country’s heritage from the kind of mass looting that devastated Baghdad’s museums in 2003, created a kind of human shield around Cairo’s Egyptian Museum this week, linking arms in front of the historic site and chasing down vandals who had managed to enter the building after it was abandoned by the country’s police.
Take a look at heroes.
They won’t become an important government official in the next regime. Their names will never be inscribed on a monument and no statues will be erected to remember the risk they took. There was absolutely nothing to gain by putting themselves at risk by locking arms and standing between history and anarchy. Yet they did.
Eventually, things will settle down in Egypt. Who, or what, will be in control when the dust settles is unclear. What it will mean for Egyptians, and the middle east, and the world, remains unclear. But if the human wall surrounding Egypt’s antiquities can withstand the assaults, the artifacts housed in the Museum of Egypt will remain for posterity.
There is absolutely no personal gain to be had by the men and women who put their bodies at risk, and no one will ever know what they did. Yet they are the guardians of history, so that the antiquities will be there for the rest of us. They act selflessly, a concept foreign from the American experience. They are heroes.