A friend died yesterday in Alexandria, Egypt, caught in the middle of a war that had nothing to do with him, and showing until the end of his life all the contradictions of the world that we live in.
The last time we spoke he was already in Egypt and we agreed to eat a falafel in August, when he would come back to Maryland. After a long discussion, he planned to prove that – against my predictions – the falafels in Adams Morgan were better than those in Berlin. But he is never going to come back because he was killed in a protest in Alexandria, where he was –according to the news – teaching English during the summer. In fact, Andrew was doing much more than teaching English, he was absorbing every bit of the Egyptian culture, he was learning about the Middle East, and he was doing what so many people avoid – following his passion.
I met Andrew Pochter at the Kenyon College’s library. That night, I was trying to finish a research paper while sending emails to the students interested in the Middle East at Kenyon. The idea was to gather a group of students who would be willing to talk about the Palestinian-Israeli issue, and who would collaborate to organize a couple of events on campus. As I tried to focus on my tasks, the guy sitting behind me would not stop talking to his friend. It took all my energy not to turn around and ask them to shut up, but I guess I didn’t want to be “that girl”. All of a sudden, I realized that their conversation about China was actually interesting, but I disagreed with some of their points… so I turned around and apologized for being “that girl”, and told one of the guys that I thought that he was slightly wrong. That guy was Andrew. A little shocked but still smiling, he opened up and we engaged in a very interesting conversation that prevented me from finishing my research paper. No regrets. Little I knew that -without knowing him- I had been sending him multiple emails that night, because he was one of those students involved with Middle East activism at Kenyon College. Soon enough we started to collaborate, and to exchange every kind of information about the Middle East and Latin America. He enlightened me when it came to the USA and the Middle East, and I answered his multiple questions about Venezuela and Latin America.
I don’t know the details about his death, and I don’t want to know them. But I know that it was provoked by an unreasonable amount of hate, a hate that does not have owners and that will never have a proper explanation –because it is irrational. This hate managed to kill an American who genuinely cared about the Middle East, and who would have had an extremely positive impact on the region. Violence is increasing in Egypt, especially towards Americans. Let alone the fact that many of those so-called “Americans” walking on the Egyptian streets are not “Americans” or “Democrats” or “Republicans”… they are human beings with families, friends and passions. When are we going to stop identifying people with nations, governments, flags and symbols? We have the potential to be better than that. I take back my words from the beginning: the war that killed Andrew is a war that maybe had everything to do with him, and with all of us. Because it goes beyond Egypt and borders… it’s the war of those who do not value life.
Andrew’s courage, generosity and integrity will never be forgotten. It is incredible how a 21 year old could have such level of maturity to follow his passions with the decisiveness that he did, and it is needless to say that his life will be an example for all of us.
To the killers, I say… if you knew him you wouldn’t have done this.
This is yet another reason for all of us to get to know each other.
I leave a link to an Article that Andrew wrote a couple of years ago, when he was living in Morocco: The Acquisition of Reality. All my thoughts go to his family, girlfriend and friends, who I am sure are as proud of him as I am – if not more.