Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why does it always have to be about us?

Like much of the rest of the world I suspect, I've been following pretty closely the news reports from Egypt over this last couple of weeks. It's a fascinating story, just on the face of it - an apparently leaderless, unorganized popular revolt against the rule of an autocratic leader. But, more deeply than that, I admit to being an Egyptophile. The long history of that culture and its people is an amazing human story that has long held my interest. I've read quite a bit and studied some about the ancient history of the culture, the time of the pharoahs, right up through Cleopatra. Indeed, one of the books currently on my "to be read" shelf is Stacy Schiff's Pulitizer Prize-winning biograghy, Cleopatra: A Life.

The modern history of Egypt has, of course, been problematic on many levels and yet it retains its status as one of, if not the oldest continuous human societies on earth with all the gravitas and dignity that that conveys.

With all that long history to consider, when I read the news accounts or watch television or listen to radio accounts and analyses, I am struck by the fact that so many of the reporters and the analysts in American media make the story not about Egypt and Egyptians but about us. About America and Americans. Are we really so self-centered, so narcissistic that we can only see the rest of the world through the prism of our own selfish interests? Why does it always have to be about us?

A close second in the analysts' point of view is the importance of how all of this will affect Israel! How about how it will affect Egyptians? I don't really think that those people who are marching in the streets are thinking about the U.S.A or Israel, except perhaps very tangentially. They are thinking about a failing economy, a lack of educational opportunities for their children, no jobs to be had for many of them, and a government that seems remote and uncaring. Why is it so hard for many Americans, especially those among the "talking head" class of Americans, to see that?

I say "good luck" to the Egyptian man and woman in the street. May their revolution succeed and may it bring about the kind of democratic society that they envision and want for their future. It might not be a society that would have been envisioned by Ramses II or even Cleopatra, but I think they might look with pride at the courage and fortitude of their 21st century children who are demanding a government that they can respect and one that will protect universal human rights.

And when they get that government, then we can work out our relationship to it, but let it be a mutual effort, not one that is all about us.

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