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yalla ya masr

January 30, 2011

Egypt, mighty Egypt. Since January 25th, the designated day of reckoning, it has been a state thrust into something much-awaited, something cathartic, something joyous. But also something downright dangerous, uncertain, unknown and most assuredly radically different from anything it has experienced in 29 years. Or perhaps, 58 years?

I hesitate to describe what is occurring a “revolution” although many signs point to that. Talk to any Egyptian, and disdain for the Mubarak regime and the NDP lies not far beneath the surface. It has been a strangling order, one that has severely limited the country’s development economically, socially, culturally and technologically. It has been outright stifling. The hypocrisy and cruelty with which the regime ruled cannot be denied. Vice President Joe Biden’s comments that Mubarak was not a “dictator” were not entirely unexpected, though they were wholly wrong. I suspect Biden, Obama and Clinton are all acutely aware of the ills of the Egyptian regime, helpful as it may be to their vision of Middle Eastern peace and achieving equilibrium and the delicate balance of power with Netanyahu’s Israel at the moment.

Nevertheless, on the streets of Cairo, the people are speaking. Loud and clear. The populist tilt of these protests, the relative sidelining of the Muslim Brotherhood and the inability of the police and military to effectively quell these uprisings (whether as a result of the direct orders granted or their own sympathy with the protesters) are all critical to the success of this movement as a whole. Moreover, I think these elements, including widespread Egyptian and Arab solidarity, create the makings for a very bright, if not unclear, future. Not all revolutions are created equal, and not all revolutions will have the backing of such an astounding portion of the population. What has happened in this past week in Egypt is promising indeed.

But I say this with reservations. The hope and optimism that filled me on Friday, when I thought Mubarak would “do the right thing” and flee, have been replaced with a bit of foreboding, a bit of gloom, at the realization this process will be long, protracted and filled with slight regressions among the bounding leaps forward. I suppose one cannot have expected him to shy away from the challenge of thousands in the streets so easily. Mubarak is a man of great pride and despite his paranoia, one of profound importance in his own eyes. As the father of the state, surely he must have seen relinquishing his paternal duties and protection as problematic, not helpful, as so many of his people would. To his credit, he believes he is doing the right thing. But perhaps the delusions that accompany authoritarian power for 29 solid years are too strong. Mubarak will not go quietly. His son, Gamal, will hopefully see the light. What is happening to their country is unprecedented, and it is groundbreaking. But it is also intensely unfamiliar. Undemocratic governments can be born of thoroughly democratic populist uprisings. I can only hope that the Egyptian people, long desperate for change, can see it through to the end.


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