I've been glued to Al Jazeera English all morning spellbound by the event in Egypt and Tahrir Square. (Kudos to Link TV and Free Speech TV for carrying the service!) It's so thrilling to see that people without violence or hatred can command respect and achieve what seemed the impossible.
Listening to interviews with people in the square I found myself tearing up and becoming emotional. I knew I was invested in what was happening there, but I didn't realize how invested until I heard an interview with an Egyptian professor talk about his feelings at the resignation of a autocrat/dictator. It was beautiful.
What's really beautiful is the breadth and diversity of the protesters in Tahrir Square. There are Muslims and Christians. There are educated and uneducated. The women are veiled and unveiled. There are whole families protesting together. A whole community has emerged in the 490,000 square feet of the Square. (See How many people are in Tahrir Square for some interesting info on the statistics.) What moved me is how people are keeping the entire area clean. Informal clinics have been set up. An art installation has been created using some of the stones that were thrown at them. A couple decided to get married in the midst of the protesters. Coptic Christians protected Muslims as they prayed.
What really moves me about all this is it is exactly the kind of actions that appeal to truly patriotic Americans. We love the story of the underdog rising up and overthrowing their chains. Look at the movies we like. Dirty Dancing (Single-Disc Widescreen Edition) & Red Dawn (Collector's Edition) for example. Both of these are at their base about an inferior force overcoming a person or force of oppression. We like sports movies where some regular guy or small town team beats overcoming odds. Look at Rocky, Miracle [Blu-ray], Seabiscuit (Widescreen Edition).
So, on the surface, the actions and events in Egypt should appeal to every American, red-blooded or not. This is why a lot of the punditry and opinions expressed in the press are appalling to me. Glenn Beck has talked about "a Muslim caliphate" and politicians such as John McCain are worried about the Muslim Brotherhood. These fear mongering statements supporting a dictator over a democracy are at their heart un-American. Others bring up Iran and what happened to the revolution there. But there is a bigger picture that I think people are missing.
Our country - unfortunately and at our shame - has supported dictators several times over the popular choice. We have done this in the past because of different reasons. In Chile, we helped Pinochet not only overthrow the popularly elected - but unfortunately for our government leftist - President Allende (father of world famous author of My Invented Country : A Memoir and other novels, Isabel Allende). President Allende was assassinated. We can place this crime on our own conscience.
We supported the autocratic Batista in Cuba. We alienated a possible friendly relationship with the popular Fidel Castro. He may have supported a democratic government in Cuba - who knows? And why were we so opposed? He didn't start out a fervent Communist. He didn't align himself with the Soviets until after he was brutally snubbed by our government. And why? We were worried about our sugar plants.
And, today, we our worried about oil. We are worried about fundamentalist Muslims attacking our country. But why do they do this? Muslims as a rule don't just want to attack anything that is different. (As a rule, Christians are better at this behavior historically than they are.) I believe we only have ourselves to blame. We express our ideals as one thing - but our behavior says something different. What is the saying? "Practice what you preach."
If we had not supported dictators worldwide, if we had not ignored human rights abuses, who knows where we would be? Who knows how different the world might look? Egypt may - MAY - become something that is not as democratic as we like. But that is no excuse for supporting someone like Mubarak.
I personally don't think this will happen. Unless of course there is some sort of military coup. Egypt is - and has been for centuries - a cosmopolitan country. A diverse country. A country where Muslims come out to protect their Christian Coptic neighbors after an attack on Christmas Eve. A country where Coptic Christians protect their fellow Muslim countrymen as they pray during protests. This is NOT a country of hatred and vitriol.
Now, speaking of hatred and vitriol and intolerance for that matter. Don't you think that we should look inside rather than outside when it comes to intolerance? Rather than complaining about the possibility of religious fundamentalists in the Arab and/or Muslim world taking over governments, maybe we should think about the religious fundamentalists taking over ours? What is the difference between Levitical law and Sharia law? Not much. If you think we have nothing to worry about, I suggest you watch Fox News or read Max Blumenthal's excellent book Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party. Watch this excellent episode of NOVA which documents Christian fundamentalists trying to infiltrate our school systems: Judgment Day - Intelligent Design on Trial.
Remember - those that live in glass houses should not throw stones.
Again, thank you Egypt for a wonderfully emotional and inspirational day. You inspire and validate my belief in the dignity and courage of the human spirit.