Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

What Joe said . . .

January 5, 2019

Ponder what the man said, long ago. This lesson pertains to forgiveness, and other truths . . . destiny, injustice, endurance, faith and human nature.

“Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come closer to me.’ And they came closer. And he said, ‘I am your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.’ “

“ ‘Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, but God sent me before you to preserve life.’

“ ‘For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.’

“ ‘God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.’

“ ‘Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God . . .’ “

For more about Joseph and his brothers, read Genesis 37-48.

Also, consider Peterson’s lecture on this subject:


King of Soul

After reading Thirteen Days

November 29, 2014

In September of 1978, President Jimmy Carter invited Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to the presidential retreat at Camp David. Mr. Carter’s objective was to forge a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Following a 13-day ordeal of tense negotiations that involved the three primary leaders and their accompanying staffs, the summit did ultimately produce a signed agreement.

In 2014, peace still exists between Egypt and Israel.

Lawrence Wright has written a book reporting what took place during that thirteen day period at Camp David in 1978. The book was published in September this year, 2014 by Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

Here a few things I learned while reading Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David.

Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan accompanied Prime Minister Begin at the summit. Dayan, born in 1915 in the first Israeli kibbutz, had been Defense Minister during the 6-day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

~ Very soon after the war of 1967, in which Israel had gained control of much territory, including the Sinai and Jerusalem, Moshe Dayan met with Muslim leaders in Jerusalem. Although the Muslims had feared that Dayan might allow the Israelis to destroy the mosques on top of the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif), Dayan did otherwise. He told the Muslim leaders, including the Mufti, to “resume their Friday sermons” at the Al Aqsa mosque. He also eliminated barricades and checkpoints that had formerly separated Arab neighborhoods from Jewish areas.

~ In 1972, President Sadat sent Soviet military experts out of Egypt, back to USSR. By “pulling Egypt out of the Soviet embrace” Sadat was able to steer the Egyptian economy away from the socialist model.

~ The 1978 American-sponsored peace summit at Camp David got off to a very slow start. After nine days of awkward, getting-to-know-you sessions between two delegations whose nations had formerly met only on battlefields of war, the “first concrete agreement of the Camp David summit became a reality.” This little breakthrough occurred when an Egyptian lawyer, Osama el-Baz, met with an Israeli lawyer, Aharon Barak, to hash out some legal hurtles. The proverbial sunbeam broke through dark clouds of gloom when the attorneys agreed to delete a phrase. Ironically, the phrase was this sentence: “They have both also stated that there shall be be no more war between them.”  In other words, the negotiators were starting to get realistic about the limitations of their proposed peace agreement.

~ Also on Day 9 of the summit, the issue of Israeli settlements in the Sinai emerged as the main point of contention obstructing an agreement. This became evident after President Carter became furious with the Egyptian attorney Baz and berated him for misrepresenting his boss’ (Sadat’s) position on another issue.

~ On Day 10, Anwar el-Sadat and Moshe Dayan, two men under whose command their two armies had clashed on the Sinai battlegrounds five years prior, met in Sadat’s apartment at Camp David.  Lawrence Wright wrote: “Sadat received Dayan with a polite smile.” Despite Carter’s request to Dayan that the battle-horses “not discuss the issues” lest they descend into entrenched positions, the two peace-seeking soldiers fell into an exchange about the Israelis’ refusal to give up their settlements in the Sinai. But the silver lining behind the cloud was that now the issue of settlements could come full-force to the front lines of their waging peace. Progress, believe it or not,  was at last on their dark horizon as the two sides faced each other face-to-face, but not on a desert battlefield.  (. . .”settlements” dispute sound familiar to our 2014 ears?)

~ The Yom Kippur War of 1973 exposed Israel’s vulnerability in a way that compelled their electorate to turn toward Begin’s hardline defense strategies and the Likud party, in 1977.

~ Menachem Begin, born in Russian Belarus in 1913, survived both the Nazi Holocaust and the Soviet gulag before being sent to Palestine as a soldier in the Polish army in December 1942. When Begin got to Palestine, one might say he never looked back. He had found that home that all Jews await. His persecuted, embattled life-story explains, in my opinion, the extremity of his Irgun military strategies and terrorist insurrections in British Palestine after World War II. His 1978 presence at Jimmy Carter’s peace-seeking marathon for thirteen days, and his consent to its final agreement, was unlikely, to say the least.

But I will not “say the least.” Begin’s concession of the Sinai to Egypt was nothing short of miraculous. There are conditions in this world that can turn a heart of stone into a human heart. A wise peacemaking Christian man who happened to be President of the strongest nation in the world had a hand in this amazing turnaround.

Speaking of which, I’ll skip a Sinai-sized bulk of my notes about this peace-seeking ordeal, to mention a turning point (one of many) that came on the last day, Day 13:

~ As a final signing ceremony was being prepared at the White House, Begin ordered his delegation to withdraw from the Camp David meetings. The thorny issue of Jerusalem was the prickling crown that was about to draw fatal blood from an almost-compete agreement. That old death-struggle between Jew and Muslim had raised its ugly head when Begin’s life-defining resolve was threatened by a letter from President Carter. It was a side letter,  a mere addendum, and not a legal part of the agreement, that came to the forefront of their last-minute contentions. Carter had written the letter as a point of clarification at Sadat’s request. Lawrence Wright wrote:

“If Carter retracted the letter, he would lose Sadat. If he did not, he would lose Begin. There was no way out.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . .er, at the White House, Rosalynn and the staff were making preparations for a signing ceremony to take place in a few hours.

“The true loneliness of leadership is found in such moments, when great gains and great losses await a decision and there is no way of tallying in advance the final cost.”

I will not disclose how this last-minute obstacle was overcome, but I will say this: When Jimmy Carter delivered a photographic gift to Menachem Begin as he was sitting on the porch, the old soldier’s heart of stone  took a back seat, at least for a few minutes, to a heart of flesh. Those photographs were addressed, individually, to Begin’s grandchildren.

Now once again, I will pass over copious notes to offer one final thing I learned while reading Lawrence Wright’s book.

~ In 1981, after all this laborious peacemaking had passed, and after Israel had formally withdrawn from the Sinai peninsula, President Sadat was participating in a ceremonial event to honor Egypt, and to commemorate the war of 1973. Sadat stood on a decorated platform with many other dignitaries, clothed in a field marshal’s uniform, arrayed in his finest honorary regalia. A band played; fireworks were on display. Military jets passed overhead with acrobatics; a military parade passed in front of the platform for their review. But one troop truck halted. Egyptian soldiers leaped to the ground, brandishing automatic rifles and grenades. One of them raced toward the platform.

“Sadat abruptly stood up and saluted.”

~ And that was the last time Anwar el-Sadat stood on this earth. He was a leader who paid the dearest price of all for his willingness to break ranks with Arab intransigence and make peace with Jacob. He recovered lands for the Egyptians that they could not reclaim through war.  That final stand on the platform–that final salute on October 6, 1981–demonstrated his last full measure of devotion to his country, Egypt. It was also courageous expression of his late-in-life enlistment with a fragile project called peace– a process that sometimes breaks through, like a sunbeam from a dark cloud, into our war-torn world.


Sadat on enterprise and sacrifice

March 5, 2011

All his life, Anwar Sadat, the Arab leader who sought to make peace with Israel, was willing to buck the tide of prevailing opinions among his allies.
In his autobiography, he recalls economic conditions in Egypt in 1961, nine years before he became President. Mr. Sadat writes, on page 213 of In Search of Identity:

“In 1961 the nationalization measures were taken and an economic takeoff could have taken place, based on the public sector as well as a healthily promoted private sector; we could have proceeded to vast economic achievements.
“However, our socialism began to be singed in practice with Marxism.  Any free enterprise system came to be regarded as odious capitalism and the private sector as synonymous with exploitation and robbery.  Individual effort came to a standstill, and from this stemmed the terrible passivity of the people that I still suffer from to this day.
“A point was reached where the state was expected not only to undertake economic planning (apart from running foreign and domestic policies), but actually to provide eggs and chickens and dozens of other things that individual free enterprise could and should have easily provided. As a result, and according to that “new” theory, the people came to rely on the state in everything. They expected the state to provide them with food, work, housing, and education.  Indeed, having professed to be socialist, the state was expected to provide citizens with everything they needed without their having to make any positive effort at all. It was that shinking back from active individual enterprise that marked the beginning of our abysmal economic collapase.”

That’s what the man wrote about individual free enterprise. I think it is still timely advice. But I’d like to bring to your attention another matter of importance that Sadat brought into the discourses of men before he was assassinated in 1981.

A few years before his death, this President of Egypt stood boldly before the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, and proclaimed a desire to work toward a peace with justice. He was the first Arab to do so.  On November 20, 1977, he spoke a message of hard truth balanced with hopeful intent to the legislators of Israel. Anwar issued a bold challenge that day–not only to the Israelis, but also to his fellow Arabs, and also to the whole world–as if such lofty words of peace can be uttered among men in the annals of power. Peacemaker that he sought to be, Sadat spoke these words as an historical– and even (dare I say it between Muslims, Jews, and Christians)– theological foundation for his appeal. He said:

“It is so fated that my trip to you, which is a journey of peace, coincided with the Islamic feast, the holy Feast of the Sacrifice when Abraham–peace be upon him–forefather of the Arabs and Jews, submitted to God, and, not out of weakness but through a giant spiritual force and by free will, sacrificed his very own son, thus personifying a firm and unshakable belief in ideals that have had for mankind a profound significance.”

What’s significant here is Sadat’s use of the words “sacrificed his very own son,” in reference to the patriarch of monotheistic religion, Abraham. This is curiously instructive.

I gather that Muslims believe that Abraham actually sacrificed his son (whom they call Ishmael) that day, whereas Jews believe (according to Torah) that God spared Abe’s son (Isaac) that day by providing a lamb as propitiation.

Meanwhile, we Christians believe that those words “sacrificed his very own son,” apply to God himself, as God sent Jesus, through the historical tradition of Abraham, to be our unblemished sacrificial lamb, offered as atonement for the sins of us all, individually and collectively.

Put that in your hookah and smoke it. We shall see, when the kingdom of God is manifest, how all this plays out.

CR, with new novel on the way, Smoke

An Appeal to Mr. Moussa and Mr. ElBaradei

March 1, 2011

Amr Moussa and Muhammed ElBaradei may become the principal candidates for the Presidency of Egypt. I hope they will remember the precedent of peace and integrity that had been established by their former great leader. And I’m not talking about Hosni Mubarak.

Anwar el- Sadat, President of Egypt from 1971 to 1981, was a military man who had arisen from humble origins. His steadfast leadership was tempered by a rare humility that is not found commonly in the annals of human history and diplomacy. Mr. Sadat’s evenly-tempered command of the Egyptian military led ultimately to an effective peace with Israel, and an appreciation for freedom that  now contributies mightily to a budding legacy of responsible government.

Anwar Sadat was the man  whose cautious fortitude took the Sinai back from the Israelis.

Hosni Mubarak was his air force commander and later vice-president. History seems to indicate that Mr. Mubarak’s service to the Egyptian people was more favorably contributed in those two roles than as President after Sadat was assassinated.
In the 1973 war with Israel, Anwar Sadat’s army and air force secured that swathe of dry Sinai land and put it back in the hands of the Egyptian people where it belongs. And yet Mr. Sadat’s integrity and his deep desire for reconciliation among men  ultimately produced a peace arrangement with Israel that is worth maintaining.

His autobiography, In Search of Identity, was published by Harper & Row in 1977. I’m hoping that Mr. Moussa, Mr. ElBaradei, and any other Egyptians whose heart is to lead that ancient nation will cherish these words of wisdom from their martyred President. Anwar Sadat wrote:

“In conclusion I must put on record that the Egyptian people differ from many other peoples, even within the Arab world. We have recovered our pride and self-confidence after the October 1973 battle, just as our armed forces did. We are no longer motivated by “complexes”–whether defeatist “inferiority” ones or those born out of suspicion and hate. And this is why the opposing sides met soon after the battle dust had settled to talk matters over. We did so when the first and second forces disengagement agreements were concluded, and again when I met Mrs. Meir in Israel. With the fighting over, we harbored nothing but respect for one another. Our civilized people know this; it is what induced 5 million citizens to come out to greet me on my return, and the armed forces to salute me in an impressive and quite unprecedented manner.

“Our cultural depths are there; our cultural roots are alive, as vigourous as ever after more than 7000 years. Those who are surprised by what we do cannot simply understand this fact. They cannot grasp the real nature of a people who are working for a modern civilization comparable to the one they erected thousands of years ago in freedom and peace.”

During the most productive part of his lifetime, the President who had come from the village of Mit Abul-Kum lived near Cairo on Pyramid Road. I hope the people of Egypt will cherish the legacy of peace, integrity and strength that Anwar Sadat excavated from that memorialized base of operations.

Don’t hold it against me that I, an American, suggest this from a distant perspective in a land far away from you. But there’s nothing I can do about that. I am a citizen of the world, just as you are, and we need to coexist here on earth so that all hell does not break loose again, if that is possible.

Glass half-Full

Gender issues in Islam

February 27, 2011

Phyllis Chesler posts an audio of her being interviewed by Tomar Yonah of Israel public radio.

It’s an ear-opener for sure, and an eye-opener too, making me wonder if its time to take off the rosy glasses that color my hopeful view about a spring blossoming of freedom in Egypt.
I go back and forth between these two opinions about what may become of this new current on the Nile: “democracy” winning out, or “sharia” creeping in instead.
So anyway, Phyllis offers a discouragingly realistic assessment about the infamous Muslim Brotherhood, and sharia, hajib and niqab,  lurking in the dark background of these groundwell changes that seemed to reach a crescendo in Tahrir Square. Phyllis’ informed perspective presents a glimpse of the organized force from deep-rooted Islam. It is a strong native presence that could overpower disorganized nascent democracy factions there in  the ancient land of the pharoahs.
Ms. Chesler’s wake-up call makes me wonder if my fledgling hope is laced with threads of naiveté.  Listening to pubic radio and other sources here in the good ole US of A, I’ve been wishfully(perhaps) thinking that the throng of free expression reverberating from Tunis and Tahrir is all about freedom and secular opportunities facilitated by our western electronic sweethearts–Twitter, Facebook, and Google.

It seems that public radio in the US is a different animal from public radio in Israel. No surprise there, I guess. Israel has been fighting for its existence since long before its rebirth in 1948.
Dreaming about the power of western liberties and their proliferation through social media would be nice, but every day or two I’m stricken with a reality check. That’s what this Phyllis Chesler interview is, and I’m still trying to figure out what to think about it. Maybe if you listen to it you can help me decide.

Glass half-Full

Sadat on Qadaffi, 1970

February 25, 2011

Here is an early character observation about Muammar Qadaffi, the young dictator of Libya, who was at the time of the event described herein, only 28 years old.
(From page 201 of Anwar Sadat’s autobiography, In Search of Identity) :

“In September 1970 (Egyptian President) Nasser convened an Arab Summit Conference in Cairo to put an end to the September 1970 massacre–the showdown between King Hussein of Jordan and the Palestinian resistance forces. King Hussein had decied to liquidate those forces and so fought them ruthlessly. A massacre, in the full sense of the term, took place. Nasser could not, of course, sit idly by. He convened that conference in Cairo…and it was attended by all the Arab kings and presidents…
“Muammar al-Qaddafi was there. He was an eye-catching character, with a revolver that never left his belt. He attacked King Hussein constantly, describing him as a madman who should be confined to a lunatic asylum; until then I had put his attacks down to overenthusiasm and youthful impetuosity.
“It (the Arab Summit Conference) was…very nerve-racking, not because of King Hussein’s participation but because of the off-stage conduct of both Qadaffi and Yasir Arafat.”

What’s curious to me about this situation is that Qadaffi was attacking King Hussein as “a madman who should be confined to a lunatic asylum.”  I guess it takes one to know one.

Glass Chimera

Birth of democracy in Islamic lands?

February 19, 2011

We Americans are caretakers of a noble experiment that goes back 235 years. Since 1776, we have attempted to govern ourselves through consensual politics that is enabled and protected by a constitution. When it comes to democracy, we are perhaps grand old masters of the game; but when it comes to fledgling democratic impulses in a 21st-century world, we are the new kids on the block, trying to puzzle out what is going on while the rest of the world moves too quickly for us to assimilate.
During the fiery days of our revolutionary birth, the urges for freedom had been squeezed out of a painful crucible of Christian Reformation and Enlightened humanistic Rationalism.

But now we are witnessing, through media, nascent democratic movements in Muslim North Africa and the Persian Gulf. We must understand, however, that we see this amazing roll of events only through a myopic, self-deceiving lens of electronic images and theoretical biases.

We must not deceive ourselves into thinking we know anything about what is going on over there, although the consequences can be huge for us and for the world if things go wrong. There is a lot at stake, including, just go ahead and admit it, the frigging oil supply.

With or without full understanding, we as Americans must necessarily  support the democratic movements that prove to be authentic, even if the resultant chaos is scary as hell.
In Egypt, for instance, the united front of idealistic, young reformers emanating from Tahrir is now fracturing into a collection of disparate groups. Which faction will emerge with the mantle of leadership?
It needs to be all of them, and none of them. What do you expect from a democracy?

Look at our own inception. We had the Patriots and the Tories, then the Federalists and the Democrats, the Whigs (whatever they were), then the Republicans and the Democrats, which we still have today.  Who came out on top?  Both of them, and neither of them, and that’s the way it should be. What do you expect in a democracy?

In contemporary Egypt, they have–let’s just say for the sake of rhetorical simplicity–two poles of political possibility. On one end are the “democrats.” That’s the broad, generic meaning of the word. They’re the ones who got on Twitter and Facebook and made this whole thing happen. But they are young and disjointed, zealous but politcally inept, and certainly naive when it comes to dealing with the army, the police, and entrenched political structures. Charles Levinson offers, in the Wall Street Journal,  an initial inventory of some  leaders who may emerge there:

So, on one end of Egyptian political possibilities we have these liberators.  On the other end are the Islamists, aka known most commonly in that particular country as the Muslim Brotherhood. They are well-established, well-organized, legalistic, and (to this American Christian) scary as hell.
But in a free society you can’t have one without the other. You’re always going to have the wild-eyed democrats on one end and the fanatical legalists on the other. I mean, look at Wisconsin.

Anyway, we Americans need to support the thrust of democratic reform in Egypt. And if we must take sides as events further unfold, I say it is necessary for the cause of freedom that we support fully the young secular whippersnappers with their tweets and facebooks.
When the time comes for Egyptians to select between them and the Islamists, the young democratic-republicans need to have our full support, lest the “brotherhood” muscle their way into a new repression based on Khomeini-style religion instead of human (and I believe, Creator-endowed) rights.

There are of course many dark clouds on the horizon.

Daniel Greenfield opines on the Bahrain situation, which is very different from Egypt, for numerous reasons, the two major ones being 1.) puppeteering hegemony between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and 2.) the labor  constituency in Bahrain being largely foreign ( ie Pakistani) imported labor, instead of native citizenry.

Mr. Greenfield also links to a report on a Tunisian mob gathering vindictively outside a synagogue in Tunis, which is quite alarming when you think about it from an historical standpoint, pogromically speaking. And Mr. Greenfield also mentions the emergence, back in Egypt,  of one Qaradawi, whose  high-profile leadership in the Muslim Brotherhood could indicate what direction that well-organized force will take in politics along the Nile.

The energetic impulse for political reform in the middle east is forged, like ours was, partly upon religion. But this time the religion is not a blooming protestant Christianity tempered with latent humanistic rationalism, but rather a fierce Islam that considers itself restricted by the historical dominance of Europe and USA.
The rolling revolutions in North Africa and the middle East–are they Islamist or democratic?
They are both. But for the sake of true political freedom, that’s a chance we’ll have to take.

Glass half-Full

Cairo and Care

February 14, 2011

This thing going on Egypt now–whatever it is–is really quite amazing, although similar “revolutions” have happened before in Egypt.

My curiosity having been piqued this week about political history there, I visited our local university library to undertake some research about that ancient culture on the Nile. My search, guided by the Library of Congress cataloging system online at ASU, was productive. Wandering through the vast annals of paper antiquity, I found so many promising books about Egypt that I had to check out five of them just to determine which one to read.

After a brief survey of them all at home, I finally settled into Anwar Sadat’s autobiography, since I like to view recorded history through the subjective lens of someone who was “there.”

But along the inquisitive path leading me toward the slain President’s memoir,  I picked up a few historical facts from the other books, for instance:

~In 1919, Sa’ad Zaghlul led a revolution that initiated the serious ejection of British colonial occupation.
~In 1952, Gamal Abdel Nasser led Anwar Sadat and other military leaders in an overthrow of King Farouk.

In both of these earlier revolutions, the forceful energy driving change was initiated and led by the army.
But now, in February of 2011, the  unprecedented groundswell of national zeal has originated from the very heart  of the  Egyptian people, with the army providing  carefully calculated support, and a sort of amazing protective custody, for their movement. That is a very important difference between what is happening Now in 2011, and what was happening Then (1919 and 1952):

At least we hope so. We like to think that the progressive crescendo of last week’s popular Tahrir uprising originated with the people of Egypt. And it just may be so. Although this is starting to sound like a naive cliche hatched by American news junkies– it just may be true that a large part of the communicative power that enabled Tahrir came through widespread use of Twittler, Facebook and Google.  And of course a most-Honorable mention goes to Al Jazeera, that old-style-but-new-kid-on-the-block  news-media network.

Wouldn’t we like to think so. Wouldn’t we like to think that regular people, empowered by these new devices, were the compelling force that sharpened  widespread discontent  into successful politics. Surely, surely it was people yearning for freedom who pulled off this mass movement. Surely it was the people of Egypt instead of, you know, armies or CIA black ops or undercover communist instigators or insidious jihadist usurpers. Wouldn’t we like to believe it.

Time will tell about the longevity and liberative quality of these whirlwind changes.
The glass half-Full view  says true democracy is being strengthened and aided by participants freely  tweeting and blogging. Glass half-empty says eventually the people’s  networks will be overtaken and restricted by big brother and the access-holding companies, or even by the government itself, as  in China.

We shall see.
Meanwhile, taking a break from the pages of  hard-bound inky antiquity, I broadened my Egyptian inquiry into  cyberspace, as I always do these days.  And I encountered, while online, this curiously graphic analysis of social networking during the Tahrir event,  from Kovas Boguta:
Kovas writes that we are embarking on a “new collective consciousness that is being formed,” for  orchestrating  events spontaneously–events such as the Tahrir phenomena  we have just, virtually speaking, witnessed.

Could be,  although I subscribe to no illusory expectations.  I don’t see our electronic tower of babel  reconstructing  reprobate human propensity to screw things up.  New technologies, impressive though they may be, are powerless to prevent people from  degenerating into fractious infighting, a la Lenin and Trotsky–or, as in this case–democrats vs. the infamous  “brotherhood.”
Once again, we shall see what which leaders and/or cells of organizing innovators end up atop the revolutionary aftermath.

Isn’t great to be an armchair revolutionary.   Ha! What would Patrick Henry think of all this?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch dressing, as I was eating salad yesterday evening…my serious pyramidal research had been interrupted because we were scheduled to host a  party of very old (double meaning there) friends in our home last night (Feb 12.) These dear friends, with whom we had somewhat collectively raised all our kids (takes a village dontcha know) back in the day–these friends would be coming over en masse to celebrate the valentine glories of  long-lived blessings and marital faithfulness!
And, with all thoughts of the “new consciousness that is being formed” aside,  I dug with them into our deepest shared experience roots and abiding friendships with flesh and blood hugs, kisses and potluck food, which is what its really all about anyway:

Valentines '11
Guess which couple here has been married 48 years. That’s revolutionary stuff these days.  On the other side of the heart, another couple got hitched less than a year ago. True love can be quite Tahriring.

Glass half-Full

The Camel of Tahrir

February 12, 2011

For a camel to stand
atop the great pyramid of Egypt
he would have to drag his knobby knees
across those windblown stacked-up stones
a thousand times, i guess.
He would have to heft his humpy back
along that blocky incline steep
so dry
and high
so as to maybe even see
across the blue mediterranee
to the birth of democracy
in ancient Gree–
stands for a camel
creeping up to the apex of history–
so unprecedented the dromedary
to be
beyond fear
in Tahrir.
For a camel to boldly do that
was  just about as likely
as a million of Egyptian citizenry
gathering peacefully
to throw off tyranny
to make their nation free.
And yet that is what we,
the world, did see–’twas about as likely
as a camel through a needle eye
could be,
so high
so dry
in that land thirstee,
panting for liberty.
Yet its what the world did see
the eleventh of Februaree,
the day they toppled old Hosni.

Glass Chimera

Have Americans become risk-averse to freedom?

February 6, 2011

“If you think yourself a man, then come with me on January 25th…”

And the rest is, as they say, history.
With those words, Asmaa Mahfouz, a young woman brimming with courage, challenged the men of her nation to take a stand for freedom.  Little did they know it, but those men and women who chose to accompany her one week later to the heart of Egypt were making a date with world history.

Although Asmaa’s passionate appeal turned out to be a perfectly-timed ultimatum, the basis for her urgent Tahrir call is nothing new in Egypt. The cauldron of discontent has been heating steadily for many years. Now it is boiling over. Mubarak and his crew saw it coming, but instead of reforming their police state–as elected leaders should do–his government sought to repress the grievances of their people.

As it turns out, now with the going forth of a young woman’s impassioned youtube message, the captive genie of justice has been released from its bottle. No, the basis for demanding reform through free elections is not a new development in Egypt.

In 1993, Edward M. Said wrote:

“With literally no exceptions, every Egyptian I know and have discussed these matters with for the past half dozen years says the same disaffected, even disgusted things about the government. Deals on every conceivable commodity are made by middlemen and commission agents, usually with some minister or Mubarak-in-law as a front; public discourse is so devaluated that it is virtually impossible to tell the truth; the country is in effect ruled by a series of autocratic measures licensing the government to stop articles in newspapers, to jail and torture dissidents under emergency laws passed by Sadat but still in force now, and to prevent unions, political organizations, secular human rights groups from assembly or action.”

“We just want our human rights and nothing else…” pleaded Asmaa, on her grainy, un-hyped video posting of January 18.
“If you have honor and dignity as a man, come! Come and protect me and other girls in the protest…”

And come they did, by the hundreds of thousands.

Now cautious, comfortable people around the world are asking:  Does this impetuous demand for popular government portend a soon-to-come takeover by Islamofascists? Does it pave the way for usurpation of  rising democratic impulses by the Muslim Brotherhood or  some other extremist groups?

That could happen, yes. Freedom is always a huge risk. Recall from your middle school social studies class what our founders risked in order to emancipate themselves from the burdens of King George III.

But the freedom and prosperity of the people of Egypt is worth taking that risk.

As a Christian who supports Israel,  I say:  Go for it, Egyptians! Go for freedom and justice. Go for constitutional government.

And as a born-free American,  my insistence on freedom of assembly–my conviction that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth–requires that Egyptian citizens must be allowed to elect, in internationally-validated elections, their own leaders. And those elections should be arranged as soon as possible, before Mubarak’s crew has time to neutralize the presently positive thrust toward reformative democracy– and even, perhaps, before extremist elements have the chance to get their explosive ducks in a row.

It’s time for the people of Egypt to vote!  United Nations, figure out how to make it happen,  and how to effectively moniter those elections so that they are, as many have advocated, “free and fair.”

This could be a grand lesson in democracy for every nation of the world, including our friends the Israelis.

Glass half-Full