Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Bluestone Theory

So I found my sweaters. All stacked neatly in the old futon covered by an egg shell that I slept on for a month when I left Student Services and 20th Street.

Joe, my old roommate (along with Jill, Jewel, Jal and June), notified me that he believed a stray Havaiana and a Norelco charger were left in a pile at my old apartment. He was right and I had been confused about those missing items because I hadn't shaved since I moved, hahaha.

I finally dropped by the apartment to hang with Joe, we rambled about our lives before we went into my old room. I grabbed my belongings and he asked if, opening the futon, whether these  Trader Joe's and Census 2010 bags Full of illegible notebooks were mine. "Oh yeah!" I said in a mix of excitement and shame. I collected them, slinging them all on my shoulders and he asked, "hey, and this sweater, is it yours?"

"What sweater?"

"Actually, all of these sweaters," pulling out three stacks.

"Oh, my god." I laughed. I laughed and cursed and danced. I hadn't lost anything, I simply shoved a quarter of my belongings into a futon and walked away.

It was joyous. We drank a beer and ate Alligator pizza to celebrate.

My parents, Saints that they are, have been sending me sweaters in the mail and handed me five more when I went home for Thanksgiving. I was thankful (I'm wearing the cerulean one now!), but these old sweaters are gifts, memories, and had once defined me, like my ironic t-shirts in middle school, or bandanas and jokey sweatshirts in high school. I had recovered some pieces of myself.

(And I think I'm not materialistic!)

Today, I'm overwhelmed with sweaters and suit jackets and loans and transcriptions


Taylor had a percussion teacher in high school named Joel Bluestone. Taylor always had such great things to say about Joel, and I was always happy to hear them, and not just because of his great name. I actually saw Joel play once at POP PDX and his band was fascinating and groovy. He was a cool guy but when Taylor left Oregon, he did so gladly, with need of a new perspective in life and in percussion. 

Taylor moved back to go to PSU a couple years after and I asked him who he would take for lessons, and he said "Joel, probably."

"But you left. You went beyond his lessons, I thought."

~ "No, I left because I needed a different perspective to grow. He still has more to teach, of course."

And it made sense, eventually. Joel wasn't a teacher just for his youth, but a skilled, open teacher with much to offer. It was easier to see what else he offered after he left and experienced other perspectives.

I'm thinking about that a lot, lately. I'm thinking about that with a lot of things. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Eric Garner Protest - December 3rd, 2014

A block away from my office is Times Square and when I read the cop who choked and killed Eric Garner had not been indicted in Staten Island and that a protest would be gearing up in Staten Island. I went to the protest, sort of. I more so gawked and the protest and steeled myself against some pretty heavy emotions. It was a very jarring experience. I've been part of some protests before, many of them when I was a kid, but the emotions were so raw from this case, and so personal for so many New Yorkers, that there was an odd flurry of emotion in the air.

It's a week and change after the protest, but I wanted to share what my (mostly) unedited thoughts were at that moment, and in the moments after when I walked alongside a mob of police officers, and then at the same protest at a different location. Here it is:

"How do you spell racist?!"


I feel nauseated and silent. I don't need to speak when the people are speaking. I'll speak low even though this is a space for yelling. But this shit is sickening.

[This protest is] surprisingly joyous. Joy is the wrong word, but protests have an energy about them. Excited. There are possibilities and an openness about politics. Direct engagement but also a social activity

"This is what democracy looks like!" "This is what democracy looks like!"

They decided not to indict the police officer that chocked and held Eric Garner off the ground. A Supreme Court in Staten Island. A jury of his peers [?] decided that no crime was committed. In just a few days after the Michael Brown Indictment, a jury decided that no crime was committed when a man was held above ground by a baton and wheezed until he died

"I can't breathe! I can't breathe!"

I started tearing when I heard that chant. There was no joy in that chant. That is the last words of Eric Garner and  the chant carried more weight. I couldn't hear it from the distance as the mobile protest joined with those standing and idly yelling. Walking and closing streets and throwing rocks and burning cars, that feels like a protest, feels like a movement. A civil chanting feels like nothing. It's cold and we're huddled.

Worse yet, we're surrounded, the protest is surrounded by the police. We have an armed guard in case we get out of hand. There are always swarms of police officers in Times Square and they seem just as routine.  We won't harm them but if we threaten them, they have an authorization to kill.


This circumstance, this instance was determined as not a crime, as lawful. The officer will likely resign, and likely work for a subcontractor or one of the dozens of security firms in the city. What's frustrating for me and for many is that this instance was authorized by the decision, and the whole system of regular, unwarranted stopping, frisking, incarceration, and killing of people of color is left unquestioned in the courts.

It cannot be Fought in the courts. Out here today, in Ferguson, in LA, in Portland, the hundreds and thousands of people are gathering to say that it may be authorized but it is not just. Though The streets of Times Square, of union square, of washington square, like the tents in Tahrir or in Taksim, are not exactly analogous to the court of public opinion. We disagree but do they?


I stepped out of the protest, mostly silent and gawking rather than participating, to see it from outside. The news crawl above the people was from ABC and read "BLACK-ISH after MODERN FAMILY." I thought that was poignant so I drew out my phone to take a picture and it flashed out and was replaced with "Police Officer feels 'Very Bad' about Eric Garner Choke Hold." I snapped a couple pictures of that and put my phone away when it flashed again. It was an advertisement for, I kid you not,


I know it felt like something to be in the crowd and yelling, but I don't know what direct action does anymore. This keeps happening. More kids keep being shot down by not just Eric Zimmermans but police officers, sworn to literally protect. How is every black person a threat to protect against? When does this become presidential action? When does congress start agreeing? There are people on the streets. As much as you can brand them all anarchists and homeless and violent (even if they are), they're still missing work, missing school to come down and protest.


When does this come to a head?


I'm walking south on 6th avenue to meet my friends in the east village. Police cars and vans full of cadets are weaving in and out of  traffic , all with their lights on, sirens on. I walked away from the start of the protest. It looks like it just got heated.


Now all the unmarked crown royals and fords packed with officers are heading to Times Square. I just passed a police car dropping off a well-dressed white couple looking like they're starting their night out, and the man gives his a ride a "Thanks, Gentleman."

"When the system doesn't work?"
 "Shut it down!" 

I hope no civilians get killed tonight 

[I'm] Walking in a mass of cops [along Broadway and 6th avenue. The cops are rowdy, some nervous and some upbeat.]
Roving bands.
Telling jokes about the protests 
Stepping on banners of "everywhere is ferguson"

NYPD is multiracial, multicultural and yet they cannot speak the language of the protest. Even if the cops agree, they cannot agree. There was a secret hand gesture the cops would give if they secretly agreed with the politics of the [Occupy] protest but people are still being killed, secret solidarity or no.

The police are people and they are sometimes people who kill other people.

[I walk with the cops for some 10 blocks, sometimes in the bike lane, away from their prowl, sometimes in the middle of the 25 officers, like a VIP

Which laws are ignored in a riot? 

In Union square, the standing man from Istanbul has been renewed. Radical politics shares a language. About 60 People  are standing with their hands up silently. A sign reads, "I know you're scared but you should ask us why we're scared too!"

Don't make me a target 
But I won't be. I'm not even on a list

This is my kind of protest. Denying the violence out of fear for myself and fear of retribution. It was silent, more and more people gathering when one man yelled "Hands up!" And three, four people responded "Don't shoot!" Hands up, don't shoot, and then everyone was yelling it. Five minutes? 

One woman yelled "I can't breathe" and the shouts and hands subsided into "I can't breathe! " and "Don't choke"

And back and forth

"hands up!"
"don't shoot!"
"Hands up!"
"Don't shoot!"

I'm in the crowd; my arms are shaking
The other side of union square, people are shopping for Christmas trinkets in the bazaar

hands up, 
Don't shoot 

Hands up, 
Don't shoot

Hands up,
don't shoot.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Third (D)ave

While I was doing laundry on October 19th, I realized I lost all my sweaters. One big box, the first box I packed before I moved to Brooklyn, was suddenly misplaced. Vanished.  Disappeared not unlike the 43 Mexican student teachers.

Well, maybe not disappeared, I must have lost it long before October 19th. I must have misplaced it at 20th Street or maybe I took a cab and left it in the trunk. It was my biggest box, so I have a hard time believing that.

One way or another, I don't have my sweaters and it just got cold. Cold like I wake up freezing, stand in the bathroom after a shower soaking in the heat before I spring back to put socks on. And it just gets colder all year.

Luckily, I still have my flannel and jackets and sweatshirts, so I'm making due. I just bundle and layer and pretend the hodgepodge of fabric is as warm as a sweater or as snug as a sweater.

I don't feel great about losing these pieces which were part of me for so long (a couple of sweaters were my uncle's! A couple were from high school!) but in a different sense, being without them is freeing. I'm not tied to those threads, I am not defined by those colors. I can be a, like, a gray pashmina guy now. Or something. Are sweaters made of pashmina?

I feel like I'm rationalizing an accident, rather than finding the silver lining. I wonder if I were more careful, would they be lost in a cab, all of my best four plates and a pile of sweaters in soggy grocery store cardboard stuffed underneath a spare tire. Maybe I should have been more thoughtful. I wonder if they're being used or stuck with someone who doesn't handwash or sitting alone in a room, unused and unwanted. I wish I could tell them what they meant to me, now that they're gone.

But that's a waste too. Now I'm just repeating the mantras that I hear all the time. You move to Brooklyn, you lose your sweaters.

It really resonates now.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Big Cucumber

I had a post idea in November(?) about finding a big, neglected cucumber in my refrigerator, taking a moment to think about how I would cut it up and eat it for a snack. Instead, I rushed it to my mouth and chomped on it like a rabbit eats a carrot. I was going to write a couple of small paragraphs about how life was like a big, neglected cucumber, sometimes, and you just have to go ahead and take a bite out of it. Sometimes life deals you a shitty hand, and you just play on and I'm not very good with long metaphors. 

But I forgot to write that down. I was pretty busy. I was told yesterday that I was vibing people, acting really self-involved and cold. I don't remember that, but I remember a stressful November and December where I felt like I was going to fail a class for the first time. Grad school is hard! (I imagine all programs are hard!)

I'm on the other side now, though, somewhere in 2014. I lost count. 2013 was a year of diversion and 2014 is a year of waiting and then exclaiming! 2013 was a year of going to Turkey and going to Philly and going to Seattle at regular intervals. It was a year of escaping tragedy, escaping boredom, escaping tear gas and escaping myself. Both my grandmas, my real ones, not the many remarriage ones (thanks Grandpa!) died this year and I had a weird time coping.  Like in 2012, I didn't cry for months in 2013. Once I get coverage, I should probably talk to a therapist about that, but I'd rather be reactive than proactive when it comes to therapy. For whatever reason.

2014 is bigger, though. I'm going to graduate from my program, and leave The New School fully. I will sign a lease for the first time. Hania is going to be moving to New York in June, so we'll live in the same place at the same time for the first time in years. 2014 is the year of full time employment instead of cobbled part time employment (I'm looking at you, 2011!) Hopefully this year will be a lot of open doors. 

Or at least closed doors. I'm going to burn so many bridges when I leave this place! 

I've been watching a lot of Homeland and getting pretty emotional while talking to Hania about high school. I had a big wave of nostalgia wash over me in thinking about listening to the radio for the first time, and what a wonder it was to hear Nirvana and David Bowie outside of soundtracks. I want to look at the world the same way I did when I was just discovering things, but I was probably too cynical and ignorant, hopeful and naïve to understand what was happening. I want to time turner the hell out of high school, just to see it over again with these eyes, but those terrible jeans and running shoes and bandanas and carabiners made me who I am today, including the nostalgia. I have to live with them in order to look back this way. 

I've also been getting into "Welcome to Night Vale," this funny, affecting, dark podcast in the vein of "News from Lake Woebegone" and The X-Files. I'm about 30 episodes in and loving it, but a couple of passages really spoke to me. One has to do with Carlos, the skeptical and beautiful scientist, but the one that really made me stumble in awe (it was icy!) requires less context and reminded me of what it is to be alive:

"Thinking back, ladies, looking back, gentlemen, thinking and looking back on my European tour, I feel…a heavy sadness descend upon me.
Of course, it is partly nostalgia — looking back at that younger me, bustling around Europe, having adventures and overcoming obstacles that, at the time, seemed so overwhelming — but now seem like just the building blocks of a harmless story.
But here is the truth of nostalgia. We don’t feel it for who we were, but who we weren’t. We feel it for all the possibilities that were open to us, but that we didn’t take.
Time is like wax, dripping from a candle flame. In the moment, it is molten and falling, with the capability to transform into any shape. Then the moment passes, and the wax hits the table top and solidifies into the shape it will always be. It becomes the past — a solid single record of what happened, still holding in its wild curves and contours the potential of every shape it could have held.
It is impossible — no matter how blessed you are by luck, or the government, or some remote, invisible deity gently steering your life with hands made of moonlight and wind — it is impossible not to feel a little sad, looking at that bit of wax, that bit of the past. It is impossible not to think of all the wild forms that wax now will never take.
The village, glimpsed from a train window — beautiful and impossible and impossibly beautiful on a mountaintop, then you wondered what it would be if you stepped off the moving train and walked up the trail to its quiet streets and lived there for the rest of your life. The beautiful face of that young man from Luftnarp, with his gaping mouth and ashy skin, last seen already half-turned away as you boarded the bus, already turning towards a future without you in it, where this thing between you that seemed so possible now already, and forever, never was.
All variety of lost opportunity spied from the windows of public transportation, really.
It can be overwhelming, this splattered, inert wax recording every turn not taken.  
"What’s the point?" you ask.
"Why bother?" you say.
"Oh, Cecil," you cry. "Oh, Cecil.”
But then you remember — I remember — that we are, even now, in another bit of molten wax. We are in a moment that is still falling, still volatile — and we will never be anywhere else. We will always be in that most dangerous, most exciting, most possible time of all: the now. Where we never can know what shape the next moment will take."
I found the transcript for the episode "A Memory of Europe" here. I highly recommend both Night Vale and Homeland, but also Guacamole Hummus from Trader Joe's (if available). Together, those three have prepared me for my last semester in school (as far as I've planned). 
There will be more frequent posts this year. I'm going to Vegas in March to intern my dad's mom with all my family. I'll write something about that, later. 

That's all I have. Have a good night, though.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Didn't someone tell me

That Charles de Gaulle airport was awful?

No problem coming in, dressed in my best impression of someone who wears a suit. I was ready to apologize for being late and Skype into a training session, but for fun, I decide to swipe my passport to see if I could check in to my second flight, as I was unable to check in in Istanbul and at Ataturk. 

The answer was no. My flight, I was informed shortly after, was cancelled for what seem to be "technical difficulties," he said confused, skimming the screen. 

Okay, no problem. I laugh it off the whole time. The guy trying to get to Cairo that missed his plane is angry, resentful and uncooperative. I am not that guy. I am a breeze. 

While I'm waiting, my Airfrance friend and I are chatting, and we're the same age. We both thought the other person was older, me because she had a job, and her because I have a beard. She says she likes airport movies but she hasn't seen The Terminal. She says she likes airplane movies, but she hasn't seen Up in the Air. "In France sometimes movies have different names..." Yeah, maybe. Has she only seen Airplane or Airport '77? I don't know, I would have asked, but the guy to Cairo was making a fascinating scene and we were both distracted.

Maybe I can visit the FL tower while in Paris? What?
Oh, Eiffel! Sorry! I don't speak French and I feel very guilty about that. 

(The French legion soldiers march past me, hands on their rifles as I type this, no lie. Walking like they talk it, cold expressions to say that they don't know this is an airport, and why are you in France) 

Maybe I could visit the Eiffel Tower? It's closed now (11 pm) but you can look at it. Your American visa lets you leave the airport, so you might as well. Okay, I guess. You'll pick up your luggage and to take the bus because the train is unsafe at this hour (11 pm) so it'll run you 20€ but when in Paris
I go to collect my luggage and wander around Paris, but wait, there is no luggage. My luggage had not arrived in Paris according to their computer. It's routine, I'm told. Nothing I did. Okay. I can check back in Nice (my new connecting airport) and

(Wait, that was too fast, did the announcement tell me I have to leave now?) 

Maybe they'll have more information then. Okay, no problem. I'm handed a toiletry kit and I'm not angry, more confused. My other new friend at baggage services did not reciprocate my jocular humor so being stranded becoming slightly more real. Still not annoyed, I'm not that guy.

I'm not in the financial position to tour around in a taxi (that should run you 100€) and also not to get a hotel for the night, so I'm going to rough it in Charles de Gaulle. I'm fine though, I have everything I need: a couple books, some hangers, envelopes, a toiletry bag and all the free Internet I can use for 30 minutes.  15 minutes. 5 minutes.

At least I'm in the right gate, I think.

UPDATE: Flight was delayed in Nice, which was fine, but I didn't have any clothes so I would have sweat through the nice shirt I was wearing and made everyone on the flight to JFK uncomfortable. Instead, I read Man in the Dark by Paul Auster and it was incredible. When I got to New York, I found a voicemail from Nice saying my luggage was in Istanbul and I should contact this number in 28 hours or less. They will send me my luggage, so no problem. Or as they say in Turkey, "Puroblem yok."

It was an adventure, and I read like two books. After a last minute cancellation, a delay that I find when I get to my connecting flight and lost luggage, I'm probably not riding Airfrance for a while, unless they have really good deals, then what does it matter?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Image Problems and Topography

Turkey, and Istanbul particularly, benefits from the East meets West image of the region, so much that it trades in stereotypes. The food is a proud mix of West Asian and European cuisines, the people are all sorts of tan and brown colors, and the area is even called Asia Minor. Turkey is a fascinating mixture of disparate cultures and languages (now), but the problem is exactly that it’s a mixture, not a solution. The people are friendly in the park forums, but there are severe cleavages in Turkish society. Ethnic, social and religious groups identify themselves by their Turkish narrative, but there is only some overlap in the narratives and completely different readings of Turkey’s history.

Sometimes what we've seen in the political arena is less East meets West, and more East vs. West.

What I expected in Istanbul was some glistening oasis straddling the Mediterranean, which I immediately found wrong, having not consulted a map, apparently. The vibrant Europe I expected was replaced by neighborly köys. The quaint Turkish villages I expected were replaced by incredible traffic and businessmen.  The Islam I expected was confronted by demands for a more secular state, but the secularism I expected is 99% Muslim. This all speaks to my surprising ignorance of everything, especially of the Middle East as it actually exists, but it also speaks to the availability of completely different, authentic Turkish experiences. 

It was made clear to me that the other American interns at Mazlumder had seen a different Turkey and had a slightly skewed image of what was going in Turkey. They were staying in Fatih, the most conservative part of Istanbul, and had to get picked up and dropped off at work. They were losing their minds from the closure and I think that losing the opportunity to wander around and stare or be stared at depressed them. One of their coordinators said there were no good places in Istanbul to drink. That wasn't a joke he told, he outright stated that drinking was not commonplace. 

As I previously hyperlinked, Erdogan has gone on record denying that the national drink is a liquor called rakı, and instead this salty yogurt drink, ayran, and some recent laws have attempted to constrict the drinking culture, but what? People get drunk in Istanbul. There are many liquor stores and the cheap beer is safer to drink than tap water. And even though it's Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkish) in a majority Muslim state, the bars are by no means empty. That doesn't speak to Turkey as a whole, but you're in Istanbul, the New York (and New York exceptionalism) of Turkey. It's different here, but people argue endlessly about the nature and legitimacy of this difference.

One of the ways you can clearly see the cleavages in society is touring through the town. Fatih has all the ancient mosques and Ottoman and Byzantine buildings with engravings of ancient architects and visiting mathematicians, and the like. If you walked around all day in Fatih and never left (could never leave), as many tourists do, you would think the nation is full of observant Muslims, beautiful and ancient architecture and cheap, knock-off items like you'd find on Canal Street. 

On the other hand, I walked up past my little neighborhood to Levent and I was amazed by the wide streets, carved skyscrapers and smoggy orange sky. There was a hypercorporate Levantine oasis mere blocks from Ortaköy. It was impressive and manicured with cavernous malls and American and European fast food chains, a far cry from the cobblestones blocks away. 

The strangest and most visual difference is on Dolmabahçe road, the thoroughfare I take to work, with its blown up images of Atatürk kissing babies and staring through periscopes. There isn't an attempt to connect the history of the founding of the republic to the realities of the pictures, so they're fixed anachronistically, onto the sides of road where taxi drivers could care less. Likewise, in all government buildings (in a country where the bureaucracy was byzantine, there many state and municipal buildings) a large, more than life size picture of Atatürk is required to adorn the walls. Every building has a corner for Atatürk.

There is a strong connection to Kemalist tradition and the education system here pushes how glorious Kemal Atatürk was with his revolution, and that is apparent with the reverent images of the man throughout Turkey. İsmet İnönü, another founder of Turkey, has a stadium named after him near Taksim. You'll see his or Atatürk's gilded head literally jutting out of buildings

The prominent presence of Atatürk in the architecture of Istanbul demands the attention of a deity of a civil religion. Kemalism is an official narrative; even the religious conservative parties have to harken to nationalist sentiments. It's a major voting bloc. What's interesting is that it runs counter to the Muslim narrative of Turkey. The "only functioning secular Muslim democracy" schtick, like the East meets West, unravels when you examine it. The narratives don't coalesce, they stand opposite each other, especially further away from the Kurdish narrative also gaining national credence. The protests of the last two months have shown that the Turkish public takes quite seriously the identity and story of the nation, and go to the streets to demand their own narrative.

Turkey is facing serious image problems, not just in the region and in the Western media, but from inside. It hasn't sorted out its own history, still fighting Armenia on the semantics of genocide from 100 years ago. The Kurdish people have only been able to speak Kurdish openly in recent history. Declaring yourself a non-Muslim on your state identification takes incredible effort and only certain groups, like the Rum Orthodox Christian people, have permission to do it. 

"Turkey is a nation of contradictions" is also a stereotype, but it's accurate. Turkey is a nation of disparate realities, village life and pleated shirts and 300,000 Syrian refugees and EU aspirations and secular folks in the streets and 99% Islam. I don't think secession is the most viable solution to the problems created by these contradictions, but Turkey needs to find some common ground. 

None of these groups are disappearing. No one is going to drastically change their life, at this point. The government and Turkish society needs to find ways to better integrate these groups and halt the polarization deepening the ridges between them. It starts with new rhetoric and education. 

I don't know where it goes after that. Maybe I'll take a class.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Coups and armies, democracy and legitimacy

Outside of Turkey, my current knowledge seriously wanes, but the action is making me want to write a lot more about it. The situation in Cairo mirrors some of the possibilities in Turkey, even though the clashes in Egypt are much more violent. It's the same problems. It's legitimacy, it's democracy and it's disaffected folks disconnected from their governments and leaders. The same course of action is erupting all over, whether it's protests or clashes or coups. Bear with me.

On June 30th, massive protests erupted in Egypt  with folks demonstrating against the government led by democratically elected President Muhammed Morsi. The autonomous Egyptian military on July 1st issued an ultimatum that they would intervene in 48 hours if protests continued. The protests continued and the Military deposed Morsi on June 3rd. After the overthrow, there were protests and celebrations in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 2011 protests, with laser shows and everything.

There have been some arguments about whether this deposition was a coup or not. There are some Egyptian protesters and allies rallying for the redefinition of the word "coup," in part because coups are illegal under the Egyptian Constitution and states under coups receive less international aid from the United States, a major beneficiary. I think, despite the financial concern, that the whole argument is bunk and missing the point. Of course it's a coup, but more importantly, it's a coup by the Egyptian military, a governmental, social and economic institution which existed under previous Egyptian authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak,

After Mubarak who was forced to step down in 2011 after months of violence between government supporters, the military and protesters, the military took temporary control of the government until elections were held in Summer 2012. Their short rule marked a period of increased violence, that slowed but did not end after Morsi, the candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood, took office. The military was also the organization that deposed the King of Egypt in 1953, and has since become autonomous and powerful in its own right, without ever being an democratically elected institution.

I wrote two years ago that what threatened Tahrir Square and the Egyptian revolution was the military, and it still is, I think.

The news of the Egyptian clashes struck me as cut and dry bad. Sharif, my roommate, used to live in Egypt and has a keen interest in the politics there. He was appalled by the celebrations of an organization that is as despotic with a striking history of violence. The military had a role in torturing many of the "dissidents" under Mubarak and get half the criticism as the former regime. There was violence under Morsi, who was sort of corrupt, but the criticism he received was more pointed because of his leadership of an Islamist organization

and the military offers a counterpoint.

My relationship with autonomous militaries is different and has changed since I've been here. In Turkey, there is some sentiment that the army of the past, the "guardians of Kemalism" as they say, should have taken down Erdogan after the protests, handily, as they have in the past. Now, however, the Turkish military is not in the position to overthrow, but because it's been weakened by AKP (a move lauded by European and American spectators) and because it's made some agreements with AKP and Erdogan to not plan some coups.

But some of my friends, when talking about the absence of the military, have to keep reminding themselves that it's good for democracies that militaries are not autonomous, but it's a struggle! Turkish dissidents can no longer be comforted by the fact that the military will overthrow the government if it strays too far from Kemalism anymore. Even if it's good for democracy, it's a reminder that times have changed and that the opposition forces are weaker.

And at first I felt the same way. "These protests would be over a lot faster if the military would just step in and clear everything out!" I was excited at the beginning when military folks came in and brought real, sturdy gas masks for the protesters. When they were reprimanded, I felt cheated. It's their job to protect the state, I thought.

But they weren't protecting the state in that instance, they were jockeying for power, if ever slightly. All actions by autonomous militaries are inherently political!

This is the same thing we're seeing in Egypt, and it's unsurprising that the Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters are not letting the coup-via-protest stand. Both parties feel that the opposition is illegitimate and should be fought against completely. And so they have.

But all this is not that simple. I'm ignoring the fact that there are thousands upon thousands of Egyptians in the street, protesting for the military to take over. There has to be something I'm missing.

In talking with my colleagues and friends about the protests, I've found that my misunderstanding was about democracy in the first place. I thought that a clear and recent democratically elected leader removed from office (and put under house arrest, awaiting charges of whatever) was not logical and was the most illegitimizing action the military could take. It was inconceivable to me, but the Egyptian presidency itself is illegitimate right now. The first presidential election was a year ago and as a society, Egypt's coming to terms with major disagreements in ways that look similar to many other nations...

"Coups are a means" as Sharif said to me yesterday, and even though they are not legitimate, the military is one of the most legitimate actors in Egypt. It helped found the state and it's claim to power is stronger than Morsi's for a surprisingly massive group of people. The coup is not legitimate, but is only a means to the larger claim that the military is the most righteous leader of Egypt right now.

My friends have also reminded me that democracy is slow and looks different everywhere. Though I don't think political Islam is dead, regardless of what all the major news is spewing, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt may be banned and denied its NGO status in the aftermath of these protests. That does not mean the people who supported Morsi are leaving Egypt or the people who protested Morsi will be satisfied with their   current state.

The military will impose a leader soon and they'll be building back up to an election in the next years,
or until the next protest...