General Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi is the Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces. Last summer, he led the overthrow of elected President Mohammed Morsi. Since Morsi’s ouster, the Muslim Brotherhood – which Morsi led – has been declared a terrorist organization, their members have been arrested, and somewhere between 600-2,600 people who protested against the decision were killed. A new constitution has been voted on and – partly due to a very firm ‘Yes’ campaign, partly due to what others have characterized as an Egyptian’s desire to ‘get on with it’ – it was approved. There are things in the new constitution worth noting. (A nice sample of reactions can be found in Mada Masr, Daily News Egypt, Al Monitor, and Jadaliyya.)
Now General Sisi is poised to run for President. David Kirkpatrick wrote as much in The New York Times, saying – on January 11th – that “he all but explicitly announced he would run by linking his potential presidential candidacy to the constitutional referendum on Tuesday and Wednesday.” On January 28th, he submitted his resignation with “an announcement to come soon.”
In view of that anticipated announcement, we felt it was only right to offer up free campaign advice for General Sisi:
1. Avoid puppets.
2. Avoid making commercials like this.
3. Don’t try and clumsily appropriate jokes from Bassem Youssef the way Reagan’s team tried to appropriate ‘Born in the U.S.A.,’ okay? Okay.
4. John McNamee – a contributor to The Onion and a stand-up in Los Angeles – suggested that Sisi should “promise to modernize Egypt by converting all the pyramids into cubes.” Also – that –
5. “‘I Can See Sisi as President’ may sound like a good campaign slogan, but keep in mind Egyptians speak Arabic.
6. “’Walk Like an Egyptian’ is a bit obvious for a campaign song, but if you have to have a Bangles song, ‘Manic Monday’ really holds up.”
7. “Here’s a bit of campaign advice I give to all potential presidents,” Joel Hodgson said when reached by e-mail. “Time to re-read ‘Desiderata’ by Max Ehrmann and take it to heart.”
The creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Cinematic Titantic then quoted the entirety of “Desiderata,” which runs as follows –
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
8. Josh Krilov – who regularly performs improv comedy in Austin, Texas – suggested that “if [Sisi] was elected, he should promise to get rid of all that pesky sand. All of it.” He did not immediately respond when put with the follow up, “And replace it with what, exactly?”
I would – of course – use that then pivot from the funny to the slightly more serious and add these two:
9. Campaign on reviving the Egyptian film industry. I know that’s a bit like asking General Franco to help make “The Secret of The Beehive,” but I’m somewhat serious, too: even though there are great films out there like “The Square,” it’d be terrific to see a local industry with the verve to support something like “The Agony of Love” again.
10. Promise to free Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel, Ahmed Douma, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste, and Jeremy Hodge.
– and then I would turn from addressing Sisi to addressing Egyptians and journalists and those I’ve missed and simply say:
11. Stay safe, stay safe, stay safe. Hugs and tea and stay safe. I know you’re exhausted. One day at a time. Stay safe.