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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lessons From Cairo

The past few weeks have been what many would call :"interesting times".

A couple weeks ago, the people of Tunisia rose up and threw out a tyrant who had ruled for decades. They did this in a matter of days. When the government proposed new leaders, the people rejected them, too.

Right now, I think if you're reading this you already know what's going on in Cairo. Hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets and demanding the entire government, including Hosni Mubarak, step down. Mubarak fired the government, for lack of a better term, but insisted he isn't going anywhere. The people, though, have other plans. And they came out in droves to stand up and speak out against tyranny. For a while all was well, the army even sided with them.

And then things got ugly. Reports I've seen from people on the scene indicate that the pro-Mubarak forces are being paid by the government to incite trouble, and in some cases are part of the special police - police IDs were taken off some of the provocateurs who openly lamented it. Sadly, it looks that, at least at the time of writing, the violence from the government is only escalating, but the brave souls in Egypt are staying steadfast and united. Earlier today I saw a couple beautiful images of Christian and Muslim joined in defiance of tyranny, like this one, where Christians surrounded Muslims praying to protect them. Or perhaps this one of Coptic Christian and Muslim holding hands in unity.

A couple of the best sources for real, on the ground info have been on Twitter, notably @SultanAlQassemi and @iyad_elbaghdadi - and yes, Al Jazeera English provides a fresh perspective you're not going to get from CNN or Fox, which in my opinion have become laughably bad in terms of providing anything substantial and are glorified versions of TMZ or USA Today.

And, as if all this wasn't enough, there will be solidarity demonstrations across the Arab world tomorrow. Syria, Algeria, Yemen, Jordan - people are standing in unity with Egypt. It's quite a feeling to see people standing up for freedom there. It's quite another to see so few doing so here. And worse yet, some people are buying into the nonsense that this is some mass Islamic plot to come after us. I've seen articles proclaiming the Muslim Brotherhood will use this to take over Egypt and basically send the whole population screaming into Israel with bombs strapped to their chests. The same typical Islamophobic crap that's been spewed by the "conservative" side of the Establishment ever since 9/11.

Honestly, there are some great things to be gained from this.

First, and foremost: when people stand up to tyranny en masse, things happen. In Tunisia, they threw out a despotic government. In Egypt, they've made great strides, but aren't there yet. Sadly this is costing a lot of unnecessary bloodshed, which isn't having the effect the government there desires. The people grow ever more resistant, because they know they are winning. Even if there is a sacrifice to be made, the people know that in the end the regime will crumble from its own corruption.

Why can't Americans go out and demand REAL change? There's a few things that come to mind for me, none are the whole truth, but put together I think a good picture gets made. We're constantly told how free we are, and for a lot of people that's all they need to hear. We're freedom-loving people. End of story. So let's go sit and watch the game. So what if we're getting essentially strip-searched at the airport? It's keeping them tear-wrist Moo-slims from blowin' up our buildings! (Never mind that the main targets of the PATRIOT Act have been US, not the terrorists. Why else do they need to grope the elderly, children,. and women with large breasts?)

I think a lot of people are used to not "rocking the boat". Gee, we're not starving or anything (yet) why go and make a scene?" No one WANTS to be the one out there shouting about the mess we're in when people still have their playthings. I also think a lot of people are legitimately afraid of what our government would do if confronted with a crowd of thousands telling them all to go away? Most salient, though - in a lot of places, they expect you to get a permit to demonstrate...does this not tell you that we are no longer living in a free country? Our right to peaceably assemble and demand a redress of grievances is GUARANTEED by law, namely the first Amendment of the Constitution (or, as W called it, that g-damned piece of paper). We don't NEED a permit to express ourselves. Suppose the demonstration was for something the government didn't like. Do you really think they'll just hand out permits?

I've also learned that we have a long way to go when it comes to dealing with the Arab world. There is a LOT of ignorance by otherwise well-intentioned people concerning Islam and the Middle East. The prevailing thought seems to be that given the chance, every Muslim would gladly blow themselves up for Allah, or that it is their sacred duty to kill us non-believers. If the people who transmit this lunacy would actually READ a Qur'an and understand the full context of passages, they would learn otherwise. Trust me, fellow Christians, your eyes will not burn out of their sockets. Much as you get bent out of shape when people misquote the Bible out of context, you're guilty of the same crime when you take single verses from the Qur'an out of context.

warned against entangling alliances.and encouraged peaceful relations with all. Maybe, just maybe, if we returned to that sound judgment, we wouldn't have to worry about other governments. We stick our nose where it does not belong, and we do it often. We are the target of enmity because we are seen as an empire, meddling in their affairs when we have no right to. Liberty and freedom are not American things. They are the things of all the people of the world. And it includes their right to elect whomever they please, even if we don't like it.

My fear is that Egypt or one of the other nations will elect a government our elites don't like and we will be dragged into another war to "protect freedom", and yet more of our remaining liberties are stolen :from us "for our own good". We can't allow that to happen again. Too much blood has been shed over our government's decisions for decades. It;s time we stop. It's time we butt out of the world's internal disputes and affairs, and instead of forcing our "principles" on everyone, we lead the way by being the example of what Liberty and Freedom are about.

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