Egypt: A Nation's Journey
Noted author, linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky once said, "In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than just ideals to be valued, they may be essential to survival." In America our constitutional mantra is "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," and we forget, oftentimes ignore the fact that people just like you and me, in distant parts of this giant world, are dying for this pursuit.
There is no doubt that America is on a wayward path. What once defined us as a great nation, the absolute will of the people, has ceded into the shadows. We've couched ourselves while career politicians squawk and squabble over scraps at a partisan party all the while leaving us with a depressed economy, gutted funding of public education, colossal Federal deficit, entitlements to the wealthy and cuts to programs for the poor.
One could argue that Americans have taken these fundamental liberties for granted, but one can also argue that even with these challenges Americans face, we are governed by an intrinsic law, and that is freedom and democracy.
Step back for a moment and ask yourself what life would be like if your inalienable right to live without the threat of merciless police brutality, false imprisonment and even death was a wish unfulfilled.
Can you appreciate how unbelievably fortunate you are to live in a country where access to information isn't a privilege but a right and where freedom of expression is an inherent feature of life?
For the past 30 years and under the iron will of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's government competed against these basic freedoms. With dictatorial wealth, fraudulent elections, corrupt police and government run media in which censorship was commonplace, Egyptians lived under the yoke of a broken political and moral system.
After the death last summer of 28-year old Egyptian Khaled Said, who was beaten, tortured and killed by the police for witnessing a crime committed by police officers, Egyptians slowly started to speak out using social networking sites to communicate a growing disdain for Mubarak, and the never-ending attacks by the police upon the people.
Said's killing was like a kindle used to stoke the fire in a nation troubled by it's ruling class, and sickened by police unscrupulousness. In an article written by Heba Fatma Morayef, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, she spoke of the "impunity" given to the police under Mubarak's rule.
"The internal security division of the Ministry of the Interior is notorious for its systematic use of torture. Their repressive grip has flourished under three decades of emergency rule," Morayef says; Emergency rule that has been used to justify police brutality in the largest country in the Middle East.
From a whimper to a roar, Egyptians from all classes and religions defiantly and openly sought to put an end to Mubarak's unyielding control. Thousands were summoned and convened at Tahrir Square in Cairo and lived in the streets for 18 days before Mubarak eventually crumpled from pressure inside and outside his regime.
The Egyptians' struggle in Tahrir Square was not met without defiance from Mubarak and his "paid thugs." It has been extensively reported that Mubarak used his power to try and quash the momentum of the revolution and to win back some confidence in his ability to reign over Egypt, at least until the next election.
But government intimidation was not enough to keep the people of Egypt from being equally defiant in the face of the alternative, which was a continuation of the status quo and torture driven police tactics.
It's difficult not to appreciate the remarkable courage Egyptians have displayed these past weeks. After 30 years of living with rigged elections, lack of government transparency and a brutal police state, people stood together and finally broke an oppressive government run system and did so with full knowledge that many lives could be lost.
"It took 30 years to get to this point," said Mustafa Eck, an Egyptian-American and Director of Student Outreach at Santa Monica College. "Egyptians were finally fed up and decided they were absolutely going to do something about it, live or die."
Al-Marwa Mostafa Fahay, 33, spoke to the Washington Post and expressed her feelings about uniting with her people: "I knew even if I had to die, or even if my kids had to die, I should come to fight with the people, you have to sacrifice something great."
Now, with Parliament dissolved and the Constitution made obsolete, the people of Egypt have created an unprecedented trajectory to their own future. "What Egyptians want is more opportunity, more transparency and legal order, a true democratic election and being able to hold their leaders accountable," Eck says.
Egypt's journey is a momentous and valuable lesson for all of us who dare to believe in the dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, where humanity and freedom are synonymous and where "something great" can be had with the roar and will of the people.