Hope for democracy in Cairo
The current protests in Egypt prove one truth about democratization in the Middle East: The implementation of democratic governments in the area is most successful without outside force.
This democratic uprising is coming from people who perhaps believed everything former President George W. Bush had said about democratic freedom, but condemned the way by which he forced it upon a sovereign, unsuspecting nation. However, today we have a new president and a very unusual and abrupt situation. President Obama does not have much of a choice. At this point we must support the much-needed change in power in Egypt.
Here in America we often take democracy for granted, and even more so in college, where we are exposed to different ideas that add further doubt to our democratic system. A system we often despise for being overly political, gerrymandered and occupied by parties that force us to pick the lesser of two evils.
As much as Americans do often complain, I would much rather proceed to have a continuing dialogue about how to solve my nation’s problems with people I elect rather than have someone who has been in power for 30 years have those conversations for us, and continue to insist that what is best for me is to keep my mouth shut.
While I wish our constitution was a bit more specific (and perhaps was accompanied by a glossary) I appreciate the fact that after a tragic event such as an assassination, our most sacred document isn’t entirely suspended and its people imprisoned without reason. Thankfully we have the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments.
The most profound part about this entire movement is that if President Mubarak steps down and allows democracy to take his place, most Egyptians will be experiencing what Americans enjoy for the first time. They will be empowered because they will have a seat at a table and a stake in the direction they decide to take their country. In some ways, they will echo the birth of America and begin the same experiment.
As Americans we do not explicitly see the differences our individual voices make, but as a whole, public opinion matters. Sometimes we do deal with corruption, but at least we have the choice to change rather than continue with the status quo, waiting for someone to be courageous enough to start a revolution.
Egypt seems ready to take a step forward, though there is at least one nation in the region taking many steps back. This past summer, I had the opportunity to study in Beirut, Lebanon for a month. Beirut is a lively city in a country that is almost like a California for the Middle East and the capital of the socially moderate Arab world. Within the past few weeks, the government has collapsed and has largely been taken over by the militant organization Hezbollah, a group of cowards that have been holding the Lebanese people’s prosperity hostage because of its nagging hatred of Israel.
Egypt can learn from the current position Lebanon finds itself in. Both countries are moderate Arab nations, have organized middle-classes and influential Christian populations. The opposition leaders in Egypt, however, will need to make certain that the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt’s own, though less powerful, Hezbollah) does not sabotage Egypt’s pending democratization. A strong military, which Lebanon lacks, will also help.
At this point, America should stick by Egypt’s side and hope for as swift and painless of a true transition as possible. The greatest democracies evolved from the people themselves, whether they were a room full of old white guys at the Philadelphia Convention, or thousands of protesters half a world away in Tahrir Square.