A New Day Shines – The Tower, February 11 2011
Over the past few weeks, the protests in Egypt have dominated the news cycle. Hundreds of thousands turn out in what have been almost exclusively nonviolent demonstrations against the abusive and corrupt regime of President Mubarak. As I write this, Mubarak just delivered a speech inciting tremendous anger and resentment on the part of the protestors.
The news breaks constantly and by the time of publication on Friday, the situation could be radically different. With the continued courage and diligence of Egyptians standing against the state fresh on the mind, it is time for a self-analysis by American policymakers and similarly by activists around the world.
When any violence has broken out on the part of the Egyptian police force, they have used tear gas canisters, guns, and vehicles produced in the United States. In times of fiscal crisis at home, Egypt still receives $1 billion dollars in annual security aid from the US. government. Mubarak has proven to be a strong ally in the Middle East in return, but often at the expense of democracy and the human rights of Egyptians.
It is hardly surprising that the U.S. government continues to support repulsive dictators for its own financial and imperial gains. This longstanding, repugnant behavior has been going on for decades.
Yet, the situation in Egypt provides a moment to atone for the sins committed by the US. against the Egyptian people. Now the U.S. has the opportunity to actually promote democracy and human rights with more than meaningless, boilerplate rhetoric.
The U.S. essentially dictates much of Egyptian policy decisions because of that nation’s reliance on American military aid. In the past, this furthered the aims of American imperialism and the defense of Israel, itself a shamefully oppressive state. Until last night, our record is quite tepid in the whole situation in Egypt, and even Obama’s stronger words on Thursday seem lacking.
Secretary Clinton and other senior officials even early on failed to call for Mubarak’s resignation, and even more for him to be charged for the many crimes he has carried out over thirty years. American diplomats, policymakers, and other officials seemingly refuse to stand behind the people of Egypt in their concerns for losing a key ally in the Middle East, unless it will prove beneficial for American imperialism.
At the same time as introspection is due in the government, the advocates of the poor and oppressed, the activists for freedom, and the average person in the streets need to reflect. The liberating movement presently in the streets of Egypt came about not at the barrel of a gun or the destruction of a nation, but through effective community organizing over the years and the power of nonviolent direct action.
Besides sporadic outbursts of violence on the fringes of the protests, the hundreds of thousands in attendance march peacefully. For all of those who seek justice, the witness of these Egyptians to bringing about a better world through peacemaking should be an inspiration.
If successful in Egypt, the movement that toppled Mubarak’s regime will add to the growing evidence that violence fails each and every time. The growing masses are made of Christians and Muslims, rich and poor, men and, importantly, women. True reform only comes about through nonviolence and reconciliation when a muted front takes a stand.
Ultimately, the demonstrations in Egypt are far greater than just the affairs of that nation. They have implications, if the citizens of the world take the lessons to heart, that can change the entire world. Eliminating the dictators an war criminals, truly the seeds that sow America’s demise, that are cornerstones of US. foreign policy must be a lesson learned at some point.
Unfortunately, this apparently will not occur any time soon, so the governed need to continue pushing the governments for change. This is true in the United States, just as it is in Egypt. Push for reforms and push for rights, but in the end if freedom means toppling oppressors, then so be it. The power of the peacemaking people cannot be suppressed, and is about time governments truly understand that.