Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I just sat for an hour-and-half watching AC360 broadcast from the floor of an interior room near the heart of Cairo in Egypt. I sat in a mixture of confusion, anger and utter disappointment as CNN recounted how a peaceful uprising had devolved into a violent street fight.

The outpouring of civil disobedience in Egypt over the past week was an inspiration to me. I watched with wonder and great hope something that I don't know has happened in my lifetime in the Middle East. A largely middle class population, with no clear leadership or alternative, simply decided to stand up and shrug off the autocratic regime that has ruled them for the last fifty years. First, these are educated people. This isn't a poverty-sticken population rising up behind the false hope that a change in leadership will pave the way for their instant well-being. These Egyptians in the streets well understand the ramifications of their actions - and they choose that risk in the hopes of a more free society. Not only that, but there is, to this point, no clear leadership driving these people to demand a change. They rally behind no man. They offer no head to cut off. This is truly one body rising against a single man. It is inspiring.

And then yesterday happened; Mubarak, sensing the writing on the wall, decided to make his stand. Let me be clear; a peaceful uprising has been usurped by a single man's passion for power. Secret police and their conscripts have acted on his behalf to thrust the nation into chaos.

It is a strange illustration of politics in the Middle East. The people of Egypt understand the principles of civil disobedience to bring about change. They understand the greater good of a free society. Mubarak understands none of this. Civil disobedience and protest hold no ultimatum for a man embedded in wealth and power and shamelessly disconnected from the reality of his citizenship. That for which these people take a stand would end the only life Mubarak has ever known. Clearly a man that chooses his personal comfort and lifestyle over the greater good is a a despot.

I am smart enough to watch the television and discern all of this. Yet sadly, sitting in the greatest bastion of liberty this world has known, I also understand that my people will do little or nothing to help the people of Egypt. We can't. This is not "our fight". We have no vested interest in Egypt. If we were to intervene the American people would, justly, cry foul of putting US lives at risk for another nation. A US intervention would most likely doom a new leadership to suspicions of a puppet government, with the US and Israel being the grand puppeteer. Not to mention that we simply are not good nation builders (see Afghanistan and Iraq).

We live in an incredibly complex world. There are an infinite number of forces at play at all times. In these moments when these forces collide, we are often left with no choice but to realize their power and our smallness. And that is where I sit; feeling small in a world with forces I will never be able to control. Yet I am awed by the fact that so many in Egypt have decided they may be able to change the tides these forces control, and I wish them all the best. I will continue to watch them struggle and offer prayers that God may find their cause just and pave the way for a better Egypt.

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