Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Breathing easier in Egypt

The column for this week is now posted on the mufticforum website. It has a special meaning for me because it describes our family's encounters with dictatorships and explains why I feel I am one with the revolutionaries in Egypt.  It also gives my reasons why I believe that Egypt will not slide into a military dictatorship or be ruled by radical Islamists.

The column which appeared in the Sky Hi Daily News 2 15 2010:
It is Feb. 11, 2011: I was shedding a joyful tear when I heard the news that Hosni Mubarak had resigned and I felt as one with those in Tahrir Square.

Why? After all, the U.S.' national interest in the region may be affected, and not favorably. Instability is always dangerous and an unknown. I should be fearful. Instead, I cheered the revolutionaries' success and I have good reason not to fear the results.

I am no stranger to authoritarian regimes. I was a student in West Berlin from1958-1959 in the middle of the Cold War and I was able to visit East Berlin. The time was a tense one, just before the Wall was erected.

I met my Mike, my husband-to be, a medical student who was from Yugoslavia, in Berlin. The experience of being subjected to an iron-fisted government ruled by Tito was still part of his aura of fear and he was visited by the secret police, which resulted in his fleeing to Switzerland.

Nine years later, when the Yugoslavian communist regime declared amnesty for refugees, we with our family of young children made a visit to Dr. Mike's homeland, the first of many. At one airport he was pulled from the plane to identify his luggage. It was much to do about nothing, but he had nightmares about it for months. Fear of unfair persecution with no legal rights can be terrifying.

We in America don't know what it is like to have to guard every word we say or fear that some deviation from political correctness overheard by an informant might result in a midnight knock at the door. We have never had to retreat into a shell where the only outlet for safe personal expression is to cheer a sports team. As Dr. Mike said, it is enough to make you paranoid. It is a suffocating blanket that throws your subconscious into a low grade depression spiked by adrenaline rushes of fear.

Once before I had rejoiced when an authoritarian regime was toppled. I pulled my car to the shoulder of a Denver freeway to cry when I heard on the radio that the Wall had been pulled down. Like the East Germans, the heavy burden of fear had been lifted from young Egyptian shoulders and they now see the possibility of a bright future ahead.

The chances are very good that Egypt will not evolve into a permanent military dictatorship or an Islamist state.

The nature of the revolutionaries themselves would not tolerate a backslide to any kind of authoritarian regime, military or radical Islamist. Their numbers were their strength, and people from all walks of life participated. Their universally shared goal was secular democracy of the kind we in America enjoy, free from oppression and an end to corruption that was robbing economic development and limited their ability to find jobs. They were not demonstrating to form an Islamist state, nor did the Islamic Brotherhood play a pivotal role, since their agenda was not a secular democracy.

Demographics are a factor in any future elections. Young people, prime movers of the revolution, outnumber the older generations and the same demographics are reflected in Egypt's conscript military, a military that the generals cannot trust to fire on their own.

With the military in control during the transition period of six months, those same young people will have time to form a large enough voting block to offset proponents of radical Islam or continued military dictatorship. They have already demonstrated they have the self discipline and the and grasp of modern technology to organize peaceful civil disobedience quickly. If they could do that, they certainly have the ability to organize politically.

Revolutions will never be the same: Twitter, Facebook, and texting combined with the protest techniques of Gandhi and Martin Luther King are tools more powerful than any sword.

— For more commentary, visit www.Mufticforum.com; to comment, go to www.skyhidailynews.com

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