Friday, February 4, 2011

Egypt on My Mind

The demonstrations, protests and signs of revolution in Egypt have drawn my attention all week. What courage, resolve and dignity the Egyptians seeking democracy have shown.  I am always struck by how hard those who do not have voting rights and those whose votes have been subverted or ignored,  fight for that right. Hundreds of thousands moving to the square, thousands braving harm and facing death, or thousands walking miles, and standing in lines for days to take the simple act of casting their votes for those they want to lead them and represent them in the government. It is inspiring and it is clear the people of Egypt will not be swayed.

What a contrast to us here in the United States where all we need do is show up at the poll, safely, peacefully with no threat and with the assurance that our votes will be counted to choose our leaders. No fight, no sacrifice, and no risk of harm. Yet on average, across the nation, less than 35% of us voted in the last election. We may be a beacon of light for those seeking freedom, but we are not a model of active citizens doing our part to make democracy work. We stand with the people of Egypt seeking freedom and fair elections for a government of their choosing, we demand our government act (and they have admirably no matter the criticism of the pundits), and we say it is a testament to the power of democracy.  I hope we take that in a bit, and get more of us out there exercising our voting rights when the next election rolls around. 

For Egyptians the path to democracy has been longer than most, 4,000 years by some counts, from the pharaohs to present.  When the elation of the belief that freedom and democracy are at hand is evident in the faces of those in the square, my heart is lifted.  When the the pictures are of the violence, my heart sinks, but always I hold a picture of peacefulness in the square in my mind and my prayers.  I am old enough to remember Nasser and Sadat and know the repression is long and deep, I trust that these noble people, with thousands of years of history as a civilization, will make this transition without descending into utter chaos, and without radical Islamists co-opting this march to freedom.

1 comment:

Joel Jensen said...

Democracy is not a battle to be won, it is a path to be walked.

Most often not an easy path and always one that has no end.

We either keep walking it or it goes away.

I share your admiration of those for whom that path is so much more difficult and dangerous than the one we so casually and indifferently walk today. Facing threats or hardships we can scarcely imagine, they tap into the power and potential that can be found on that path and rise above even the threat of death to move forwards.

Each event, like the voting in South Sudan or the uprising in Egypt is always complicated, never susceptible to absolutes and yet beneath the details and complexities there are truths - the power of which is often underestimated by those who have become "experienced", "pragmatic" or "realistic" in their approach. (The wikileaks memos from our Cairo diplomats give wonderful examples of this, especially when viewed in the light of the last week's events.)

Watching the events in Egypt unfold, events deemed both far-off and unlikely by the "experts" and "diplomats", is a reminder of both the surprising power of the concepts and also the depth of the personal risks and sacrifices that are often the price that must be paid to convert those lofty concepts to reality.

I hope as well that now they have started on that path they do not stray or allow themselves to be obstucted or diverted. (We can hope the same for ourselves.)