Friday, February 04, 2011

Revolutionary thoughts

This past week has been an incredible time to watch the news. To see a wave of revolution begin to sweep across the Middle East is a rare peek into the process of humanity’s yearning for the better things in life, beginning with the very most basic freedoms a culture can ask for.

It has been a pleasure to see the Egyptian people take their lives, their fortunes and their national honor into their hands and demand redress of a repressive government, asking relief from a government that fails to protect its people from economic ruin caused by wealthy corporations, backs the torture of prisoners, jails opponents without trial and protects the wealthy elite from the vagaries of economic cycles, forcing the poor to live without a safety net… wait … hold on, something sounds familiar about that.

No, could it be? Is it possible?

Man, I’ve been wondering why the Republicans have been so silent about this wave of revolutions. Usually they are so quick to note the similarity between popular revolutions and our own, but this time they have been so quiet. Usually, they praise the courage and bravery of the protesters as they bring down an oppressive government, but strangely, this time, they have not.

Could it be they have noted that the characteristics of the Egyptian government are just a little too close to the new Republican values this time? Think about it. Protection of the wealthy, laws that favor the wealthy elite and their businesses, failure to protect the poor, if not outright exploitation of them. A failure of the Republicans to condemn torture and the unending, indefinite nature of the detainment of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay without trial. Sound familiar? It should be, these are the hallmarks of many of the dictatorships in the Middle East, and finally, the Tunisians, the Egyptians, the Sudanese, the Syrians and others are beginning to bestir themselves to bring down these nasty men of little honor.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I am familiar with the requirements of realpolitic and the need of our government to secure our supply of life-giving oil. I know that in the past it has been necessary to be pals with some of the scum of the earth in order to feed our need for energy. Even today, in the midst of this new wave of uprisings, we still need to treat them with kid gloves, lest some of our current crop of scum dictators friends, get the idea that they might be next to get tossed under the bus.

Sometimes, yes, diplomacy means having to hold your nose when shaking hands.

If only politics at home weren’t beginning to have the same scent… er, flavor.

It is interesting that it is the middle east where people have finally woken up to the nasty nature of a political elite that favor the wealthy over everybody else, exploit the poor and deny human rights to opponents before the American people. We are so smug about our superior, modern progressive values that we have been blind to the conversion of an old trusted political party into something that Lincoln would never have recognized, much less accepted.

There was a time when the Republicans honored the values that made this country great. When they did not twist those values into something unrecognizable to the Founders they profess to worship so highly. But now, they not only twist those values, they twist history, intertwining lies with the truth in teaching our youth about the founding of this country, building the basic blocks of theocracy and oligarchic dictatorship while wrapping themselves in a flag that should stand for something else.

We live in dangerous times, when men like Rush Limbaugh can laugh at the attacks of an endangered dictator upon the free press - until reporters of his chosen network of propaganda become targets. When men like Glenn Beck can twist the current events in Egypt into a sinister plot to overthrow western civilization, and his audience not only does not turn him off, but listens, I begin to wonder about the applicability of the old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”!

The now famous quote from Sinclair Lewis, 'When Fascism Comes to This Country, It Will Be Wrapped in the Flag Carrying a Cross', is as apropos as ever today, and should be taught in every classroom in the country - right after evolutionary biology and modern physics!

Think again about the protesters in Cairo and every other Egyptian city. They have lived with such a regime for the last fifty-eight years, from Nassar to Mubarak. Civilian puppets bobbing on the strings of a military dictatorship with oligarchic characteristics. Today, they have participated in a massive protest, one the military has tried to hide from view by a coordinated attack on the free press.

Is that the future of this country? Is that what you want your children or grandchildren to live under? Is it possible that the freedoms we have taken for granted could be so easily swept away that it could take a second American revolution to correct the situation?

I know, it sounds so alarmist, so… kooky. Kind of like flying saucers, you know?

But it could happen, and it will, unless the American people can begin to see the illogic of backing a party that professes to honor the principles of individual liberty while backing the use of the power of the State to push one specific religious viewpoint. A party that refuses to condemn torture or indefinite detainment and warrantless surveillance of the American public.

All tools of dictators. Totalitarian governments. Theocracies. Oligarchies.

Nasty words, aren’t they? Conjuring pictures of concentration camps, middle of the night arrests and summary executions.

What can we do? Can we do anything?

Of course we can. We can spread the truth.

Fight for science education in the schools. Fight against religious indoctrination in public schools and the diversion of public school funds into religious schools through innocuous sounding voucher programs.

Every time you hear someone say this country was founded as a Christian nation, set them straight. Loudly and vociferously.

Fight the current trend to post the ten commandments or say prayers at city or county council meetings.

Fight for progressive ideals that protect the poor and control and restrain the wealthy elite.

Above all, if you are part of the silently non-religious that keep quiet because of a fear of being exposed to the majority, SPEAK OUT and make yourself known! It is ONLY through banding together to oppose the use of religion to make this country into a religious oligarchy that we can protect our descendants from having to live under a regime that would curb our freedoms and turn this country into the kind of place that millions have come here to avoid!

Two hundred and thirty four years ago, our forefathers did what no people had ever done before - they fought a king for their freedom and won! It took them over eight long years, but finally, they prevailed.

This week, the Egyptians are fighting for their own freedom. I hope I can honor their sacrifices in actually paying attention to their actions.

So let us take their example, take the lessons of history to heart and do what the Republicans have twisted into their own message - let’s take our country back!


Gary Berg-Cross said...

So far the movement seems to have some wisdom to avoid some of the obvious problems as authoritarian rule holds on to power. A long time ago Jean-Jacques Rousseau observed the risk of popular uprisings with groups long out of power when he wrote that:

“People accustomed to masters will not let mastery cease … Mistaking liberty for unchained license, they are delivered by their revolutions into the hands of seducers who will only aggravate their chains …”

A good transition needs input from people with political and economic maturity and regimes know this and keep such folks from developing in their society and at bay if they survive.

Gary Berg-Cross said...

One of the contradictions that secular humanists might face in rebellions such as in Egypt is that there can be an in-power group that is nominally secular and is confronting religious groups (e.g. Muslims) that are more democratic.
This seems to be part of the case described in Reutetr's "Egypt's Suleiman demonized Islamists: WikiLeak cables"

rwahrens said...

Interesting that the Muslim Brotherhood is certainly taking a hands off and fairly reasonable approach.

However, it is beginning to look as though the ending of this may not be the fairy tale ending the protestors would like to see, especially if the military (the REAL dictators in Egypt) gets tired of their intransigence.

Don Wharton said...

Gary, I think you are right about the secular government and our fears about the Islamic Brotherhood. More importantly, the peace treaty with Israel is quite unpopular with the general population as a whole, even the more secular people in Egyptian. In terms of a democratic transition the Islamic Botherhood knows that caution is the best move. They are much more organized than any other opposition element in Egypt. They will do extremely well in a fair election.

Gary Berg-Cross said...

I have read that the Muslim Brotherhood appears as a bigger part of the opposition because the Egyptian government kept down various democratic, progressive oppositions and prevented their leadership from emerging. Lawrence Wright (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Looming Tower) has been on various shows discussing the history and prospects.

"We don't really know what size of a constituency they have," he says. "Other organized opposition parties [have] been so crippled by the Mubarak administration — and haven't been allowed to function and organize — so they simply haven't had a chance to get their roots out among the people. If the Mubarak regime comes down, which seems likely, there needs to be a period of time where people actually have the time to organize new parties with new candidates. One of the real problems in Egypt is [that there just] aren't very many democrats. They haven't had that experience and they're going to have to have it in an extremely compressed period of time."

Don Wharton said...

The Moslem Brotherhood is being extremely cautious about even supporting the opposition at all. I think they realize that if they participate in the demonstrations they would give the current government a chance to demonize those who want democracy.

The expert testimory that I have heard basically says that the Moslem Brotherhood has the support of about twenty percent of Egyptians. The problem is that they are much more organized than any other existing group and are likely to have disproportionate power in any democratic process. They would also be very passionately against the existing peace treaty with Israel. The last thing the region needs is another interation of war.

Anonymous said...

"The expert testimony that I have heard basically says that ..."

Don, could you tell us more about this expert testimony? Some of us are skeptics ;-(


Don Wharton said...

Lucette, I think you have a good reason to be a skeptic of that point. As far as I can tell the reson that I have heard that figure on more than one occasion is that the Moslem Brotherhood got that much in the last election that they participated in. I had a conversation with Rick Gold today and his far more expert opinion is that their support is much in excess of that electoral showing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your answer Don. I am still in the dark, not knowing when that last election happened and how democratic was the electoral process. But let the bygones be bygones...

My current concern is the army.
The draftees clearly supported the protesters, for the simple reason that the protesters were the draftees' family members. But what can we expect from the army officers? According to the cables released by Wikileaks, the American government's opinion of the army chief is that he is Mubarak's poodle. Scary!

lucette said...

I forgot to mention that the last "Anonymous" comment was from me. I hope I have found out how to stop being Anonymous.

Lucette Smoes