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Photo taken in Times Square in March 2020

Ever since I graduated from college, I have seen self-fulfillment as the primary road to happiness, holding out for that lifestyle that most aligns with my quest for meaning. But the problem with self-fulfillment is that it often requires you to start over again and again, which can compromise your comfort and stability, leaving you behind your peers in the great game of life. …

Earlier this month, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria hosted former Vice President Al Gore for an interview where the two discussed the choice Americans will be making in the presidential election. During the conversation, Gore retold the Abrahamic story of Solomon, a judge faced with two women claiming the same baby as their own. Initially, Solomon ruled that the baby be split in half between the two women. But when one of them relinquished her claim to save the baby’s life, he reversed his decision and ruled in her favor; it was clear she was the child’s mother.

Gore goes on to draw a parallel between this story and Americans’ choice on November 3rd. If Trump is threatening to reject an unfavorable result, then he’s no different from the woman who didn’t mind cutting the baby in half. In other words, vote for the candidate that isn’t threatening to tear the country apart. …

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I was upset when I saw the news that none of the officers responsible for the killing of Breonna Taylor would face any charges. I said as much on my Instagram account when I posted a story saying that the ruling prioritized property over human life. The post was meant to draw fellow users’ attention to yet another example of the systemic racism that continues to oppress Black citizens in America.

Well, that’s what I’d like you to think at least.

The truth is that I held my breath for the next 23 hours and 59 seconds, stressfully counting down the seconds until Instagram submerged my story into the virtual abyss. I breathed a sigh of relief the next day when I took stock of the nice collection of red, double-underlined “100”s and hand-clap reactions I had amassed. …

Revisionist History recently completed a four-part series on Air Force General and Distinguished Service Cross recipient, Curtis LeMay. As with all episodes of Malcolm Gladwell’s truth-telling podcast, the aim of the quadrilogy was to examine the “overlooked and misunderstood.” In LeMay’s case, that meant delving beneath the sheen of his accolades to understand how he got his hardware.

LeMay was what Gladwell termed a “problem solver.” As you listen to the episodes, you learn that the label is a bit of a misnomer. The “problem solver” does not receive this title because of their painstaking efforts to digest the full range of a problem’s complexities, nor their meticulous scenario planning of the impact of its potential solutions. A problem solver is concerned with one thing: getting rid of the problem; all other challenges are secondary. As commander of the XXI Bomber Command in World War II, Curtis LeMay was cutthroat, brutal, and completely unfazed by the inhumanity of using napalm to carpet bomb and effectively wipe out the city of Tokyo in 1945. The bombing proved to be the deadliest of WWII, and human history, and yes, that includes Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We know the rest of the story; Japan, staggering from the United States’ slash and burn tactics, surrendered. …

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A week ago, I went for a run. It was the same four miles that I run a few times a week. I have been stuck on four miles since January 2020, when I set a goal to comfortably cruise through them at under a seven-minute pace on a regular basis by year’s end. Unfortunately, I have run four miles on over 60 occasions this year and only broken seven minutes twice, and by the skin of my teeth at 6:59 and 6:55. Not exactly the comfort I set my sights on back in January.

The run I went on a week ago was particularly frustrating. The air was much crisper and cooler than its seasonably muggy and humid self. My body felt unusually limber thanks to yoga the day before and it was one of those days where you feel like you’re effortlessly gliding everywhere you go. I had been stuck on just over a seven-minute pace for a few months. Today is the day I get out of my rut, I thought. …

The 2020 US Presidential election is less than 100 days away. As the date draws closer, I have observed an increasing number of politically-inclined friends, activists, scholars, and NGOs emphasize the paramount importance of the election as a potential savior for American democracy. In many ways, this is true. I understand just how high the stakes are and will cast my vote accordingly. But I also keep asking myself something: what kind of mature, institutional democracy, puts all its hopes for great change, the “restoration” of its very essence, in an election? In a person, or a group of people? Yes, the President and Congress exercise a significant level of executive and legislative power. Shaking things up, and away, from the far-right brand of Republicanism will be a massive boost to the integrity of our institutional democracy. But what will it do for the systemic economic and social issues we face? The ones that played a role in the favorability of that brand of Republicanism to begin with. A Biden Presidency will deliver us a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development with relevant credentials and subject matter expertise. …

New Yorkers love to tell you that they’re tough.

This, of course, is the city that never sleeps. The cultural, economic, and creative capital of the world. The city that survived 9/11, the blackouts, the 2008 recession, and the now-historic events of the American Revolution and Black Tuesday, among countless others, cemented in the annals of history to comprise the bedrock of this tough identity. This is the city indomitable.

So when I moved here in late-February 2020, on the cusp of an unprecedented global pandemic, I wasn’t worried. Certainly, I was concerned for my health and took the threat of the virus seriously, but I was confident that my new, tough, fellow citizens and I would adjust and find a way to keep the magic going. …

My Brothers’ Burden

I’m Egyptian. Over the years, people, places, and organizations have issued opinions and decrees on my race. Some, like the US Census, and most job applications, say I’m White. Others, Black. My fellow Brown people consider me one of their own. I identify as Arab-American, and Brown….and African, but I typically don’t mind what I’m labeled because it’s kind of a gray area and race/ethnicity is kind of fluid. What is not fluid though, is that I am a person of color, and I am not White.

Yesterday, someone identified me as Black.

I had just hopped on the New York City Subway with my wife after a long day frolicking about the city (in a socially-distanced fashion) and getting some sun. One-stop into our sojourn home, the doors parted for a visibly intoxicated, belligerent man. We had just said goodbye to my sister after having a few to-go drinks, and when he got on, I was in the middle of leaving her a voice note telling her how much fun we had. He was intimidating, and he muttered something while making eye contact with us as he bumbled by. My antennae kind of went up but I decided to continue with my voice note. As I spoke, I heard his voice rising with anger, concocting a bizarre slew of racial slurs that seemed to describe passengers on the car. …

Questioning parallels and testing institutional democracy

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I recently came across some graffiti in my neighborhood in Washington, DC that read “F*** Trump.” As I pulled my phone out to snap a photo, I stopped and remembered all the “Sisi is a murderer” images I encountered when I lived in Cairo. The parallel troubled me… are we becoming Egypt? A lot of fellow Egyptian-Americans and Middle East analysts have been raising this, and similar, question(s) as of late.

Almost immediately after Donald Trump’s election, I descended into self-criticism, shaming myself for dedicating my career to a dream of an Egypt that embraced the primacy of rule of law, pluralism, human rights, and the role of civil society. I felt arrogant for leaving the country I was born and raised in, to travel to that of my parents to work on behalf of what I assumed was long-established in the United States. …


Amr Kotb

Reflections on government, culture, politics, and society.

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