There are many lenses through which we need to look at Egypt in this era . . . and we do need to look. Many of them are very deep and complex. Although it’s impossible to do them all at once, today I offer this wondrous and more simple view:

There’s a beautiful children’s book by Leo Lionni.* In French the book is called Nageot, in English, Swimmy. In the story, there is a school of tiny red fish, with one black brother, Nageot. One day everyone in the school except Nageot is eaten by a big fish. Nageot, sad and scared, goes on his way through the sea, having new adventures. One day, he sees a school of tiny red fish, similar to those with whom he originally swam. He invites them to go on adventures with him, but they are too frightened . . . the big fish will eat them.

Nageot won’t give up. Unwilling to pretend there’s nothing to be afraid of, and yet unwilling to be paralyzed by fear, he is determined to find a solution . . . and finally he does: They can all swim together, each in his or her own specific place, so that together they look like a gigantic fish and they will be safe from the big fish.

And in Egypt . . .

The people of Egypt stayed together in Tahrir Square in Cairo. They didn’t attack. They didn’t become violent. They didn’t hide. They didn’t withdraw. They simply stayed together. What a testament to the power of working together!

© Judith Barr, 2011

*Swimmy by Leo Lionni, copyright 1963, Pantheon Books, Random House, Inc. Copyright renewed 1991, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York and Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Although I’ve told you the story, the pictures and the visual involvement in the story are still well worth experiencing first hand.