Friday, February 11, 2011

This is just the beginning

So the peaceful revolution of the Egyptian people has brought about its much desired result - Hosni Mubarak is no longer a part of their government. The man who has ruled autocratically, sometimes brutally suppressing his political enemies, for the last thirty years has left the capital and retired to his vacation home, handing over the governance of the country to the military. In many countries, the idea that the military would be in charge of the government would be a thing to be feared, but in Egypt, apparently, the military is loved and trusted by the people, and those who had taken to the streets are ecstatic at this outcome. Thus ends phase one of their revolution.

It's only the beginning, of course. In order for the people to get the democracy they so ardently desire, the government and the country must be totally transformed and that will take time. I heard a commentator on NPR today saying that it took 500 years from the signing of the Magna Carta for England to have something approaching a democracy and it took more than 200 years for the United States to go from a society in which only adult white males, many of them slave-owners, were considered to be full citizens, to a place where people of any race, creed, color, or sex might enjoy the benefits of citizenship. And still today, we deny the full rights of citizenship to some people. In light of our own history, we can hardly expect Egypt to transform itself overnight from an autocratic regime to a full democracy. Even with the best of will and intentions from all concerned, the road to democracy will be bumpy and it may have detours.

As many pundits have pointed out since the uprising began, Egypt is, in many ways, the linchpin of the Middle East. What happens there deeply affects all the neighborhood, and what affects that neighborhood has repercussions for the rest of us. But I don't think any of those concerns were on the minds of the people who demonstrated in the streets of Cairo and around the country over the last two-and-a-half weeks. They were simply seeking a more just society, one in which they and their families could have a decent life. I do most sincerly hope that their dreams are not thwarted and that they are able to achieve that end, no matter how long the process takes.

One thing is for sure - a country with a six thousand year history should know a lot about patience and it will take that patience to build the democratic society to which they aspire. Blessings on them in that effort.

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