America 's founding fathers stood up for their freedom, winning it from the British. The Egyptian people have stood up for their freedom, too, winning it from the Mubarak dictatorship, finding their courage even when Mubarak's thugs flew fighter jets low over their heads, beat and murdered protesters, and otherwise threatened violence.
Some would point out, however, that the American government is nothing like the Egyptian government. So let's make some comparisons:
- There is a stunning amount of inequality in Egypt. But America is even worse
- Mubarak stole billions from his people, while the American oligarchs have stolen trillions. See this, this, this and this
- Egypt has been living
under a state of emergency for 30 years, yes. But Americans
have been living under a continuous state of emergency for 10 years
- Mubarak was supported by the military. But the military-industrial complex has taken over America as well (moreover, there is a tradition in countries like Turkey for the military to ensure that religious fanatics do not take over the country)
- Mubarak ignored the wishes of his people. But has the American government been listening to its people? Consider the 2010 Rasmussen poll which found that "just 21% of voters nationwide believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed." A 2010 Gallup poll determined that nearly half of all Americans believe "the Federal government poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens." Poll after poll shows that "both national parties are deeply unpopular with an electorate looking for something new and different." Polls reveal that 82% of all Americans wanted Wall Street to be reined in, in a substantial and meaningful manner, and yet our government has let Wall Street have its way on all the important issues. Polls find that Americans want the big financial players who acted with fraud to be punished, and yet our government has let all of the big fish off the hook. In fact, our government has ignored many other desires of the American people, as well, including investigations into torture and spying on Americans, impeaching George W. Bush if he lied about Iraqi WMDs (which he did).
- Mubarak repressed his people and stifled dissent. Bush and Obama have haven't been all that protective of liberty either
- Mubarak murdered and tortured people without following the rule of law. America hasn't been exactly saintly in this regard over the last 10 years either
And if you think our problems started on 9/11, remember that virtually all of the current domestic and foreign policies were already in place, or planned, before 9/11.
Unlike the Egyptian people, however, Americans have become scared of their own shadow. We have forgotten that courage and hope are choices -- which do not have to come from JohnWayne levels of testosterone, but can simply arise from loving something enough to want to protect it.
How Did We Turn Into the Oppressor?
So how did we get on the wrong side of history?
Minister Jim Wallis provides some answers in an open letter that he wrote to the Egyptian protesters. Here are some excerpts:
"The United States was not talking about democracy in Egypt, not advocating it, not saying a transition is necessary and urgent, UNTIL you risked your security, safety and lives for the sake of democracy. You changed the conversation, a conversation that would be the same as it has been for decades if you hadn't done what you did. Your generational peers are now watching what you are doing in countries across the Arab world, and beyond. This is the moment for you and for us."
"You represent a new generation, a new leadership, and a new hope for the possibility of real democracy. So keep leading. My government, which still calls itself the beacon of freedom, has sacrificed democracy in your region of the world (and many other places) for the sake of American "interests": Our foreign policy around the globe has put our interests before our principles. But they are not really the interests of the American people, but of oil companies, big banks and corporations. Their interest in "stability" and continuity is very different from ours in democracy. So don't be fooled, don't listen to the so-called "wise" voices that have been part of the old reality and want to now thank you for your service to democracy, but are offering to take it from here."
"Don't let them. Keep demanding democracy -- real democracy. Because, for the rest of us, democracy is the best defense of our interests, and the best path to genuine stability. And, for our part, we will do our best to stand with you."