Lessons of the Glorious Egyptian Revolution
Wow, what an exciting day! It’s thrilling to be alive when history comes alive.
Egypt is free. Mubarak has fled. The people have won.
This is the most momentous day since the fall of the Soviet Union and the freeing of Nelson Mandela.
And let’s just stop for a moment and lay out the lessons.
First and foremost, massive nonviolent protest works. The demonstrators didn’t get their way by the force of the gun but by the force of their moral stance. This is the lesson that Gandhi taught us, that Martin Luther King taught us.
Second, even the most repressive governments and the toughest security forces cannot withstand the united rebellion of their people. This is the lesson Howard Zinn taught us.
“There is a basic weakness in governments-however massive their armies, however wealthy their treasuries, however they control the information given to the public-because their power depends on the obedience of citizens, of soldiers, of civil servants, of journalists, and writers, and teachers, and artists. When these people suspect they have been deceived, and when they withdraw their support, the government loses its legitimacy, and its power.” (From “A Chorus Against War,” The Progressive, March 2003.)
Third, this glorious revolution repudiates the bigoted notions that Muslims are somehow intrinsically more violent than followers of any other religion, and that Arab peoples are somehow “not ready” for democracy. As my colleague Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive, writes in his upcoming book from Praeger, “Islam” Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today, there is a long history of successful nonviolent actions throughout the Muslim world.
And fourth, as usual, the U.S. government was caught flat-footed and responded haltingly and embarrassingly, especially at first but even to the end. Vice President Biden’s remark that Mubarak wasn’t a dictator, Hillary Clinton’s comment that we’ve been with the Egyptian people for 30 years, and Obama’s repeated throat clearings did not distinguish the United States.
That’s how it usually goes with the U.S. Empire. It stood behind the Shah of Iran to his very last day. It stood behind Marcos in the Philippines to the very last day. It stood behind Suharto in Indonesia to the very last day. It stood behind the Duvaliers in Haiti to the very last day. All were brutal dictators, our brutal dictators, just as Mubarak was. And the U.S. government was OK with all that brutality until the people rose up and made it impossible to defend it any longer.
Today is a day to rejoice.
A day when the seemingly most unrealistic of slogans, “The People, United, Will Never Be Defeated,” has come true.
Here’s to nonviolence.
Here’s to the Egyptian people.
Sent by Dr. Carlos Muñoz, Jr. Professor Emeritus Department of Ethnic Studies
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