Calhoun’s Cannons for February 12, 2011
It was a children’s crusade. But instead of swords, they came with iPhones and Facebooked and Twittered and the world watched, amazed. They stood in the square, righteous and pure and clear-eyed and simple and sure as only children can be. And said, Enough!
And their sisters came and their mothers and fathers and illiterate day-laborers and workers from nearby towns came and joined them and they all said, Enough!
And government goons came to beat them and kill them by the hundreds, yet their numbers grew and grew and still they stood in their righteous thousands and said, again and again, Enough!
And the world held its breath, the Egyptian Army held its fire, weighed the odds and considered its duty – to the state or to Pharaoh? –and then decided.
And fled to his palace to count his money and muse over the fate of kings and tyrants in the age of Social Media and a new generation of kids who, in their innocence, demanded the right to shape their own futures.
And America, a country that started in revolution and with the words, “We the People,” dithered and hummed and didn’t know what to do since we are also a country that profoundly distrusts “the people.” They’re too hard for our corporate plutocrats to control in their quest to make the American empire safe for Coca Cola. Plus, Pharaoh was our boy. Never mind that he brutalized his people and was a world-class kleptocrat. Our history is clear on this issue: America never met an anti-democratic thug it couldn’t buy and get in bed with. The Shah was our boy, Somoza was our boy, Saddam was our boy.
And here was our Egyptian boy, wholly owned and paid for buy us and there, for God’s sake, were those damned “We the Egyptian People” standing in Tahrir Square saying, Enough!
How dare they? What’s the world coming to when scary “foreigners” take to the streets to demand their right to join our head table? And then ask for a piece of that nice pie formerly reserved to only a select few? What happens when an idea of “democracy” ignites and spreads from Tunisia to Cairo to Yemen? Where next? What next?
That’s the scary thing about “democracy.” It can take many forms and in this country, a “democracy” not aligned with America’s corporate self-interest is viewed as the wrong kind of democracy and in no time it’s co-opted or overthrown in favor of American-run thugs who are paid handsomely to make sure that their country’s self-interest is America’s self-interest. While the “We the People” of that country need not apply.
Until, inevitably, some alchemy of time and generations results in a volatile brew that will ignite and burn into chaos and murder and more thuggery. Or by some miracle, turns into a beacon of light and reform and a rebuilding of a government of law and a real sense of Commons that will bring benefits to everyone.
At this point in Egypt’s history, the world still needs to hold its breath. (And keep its dirty fingers off the scales and out of the pies.) The message of Tahrir Square is simple in its clarity. Enough. Enough of the fear-driven lies, enough of government lawlessness, enough of the kleptocratic plundering, enough cats-paw manipulating. We the People demand the right to form our own “more perfect union” in our own way for our own people.
That is a cry of light in a world of darkness. I can only hope that cry will be enough to keep the fragile flame alive until it can ignite a steady life-giving fire that cannot be snuffed out.