Today, the People of Egypt Are Our Teachers

02/12/2011 06:21 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Today, the Egyptian people proved that as people, what unites us is far greater than what divides us. They reminded us that while change is often difficult, our race will not, does not, and in fact cannot stop evolving.

And hopefully, they inspired each of us to let go of at least a little bit more of our fear.

Because, today the people of Egypt are our teachers.

The attacks of 9/11 were a huge loss to America, and a huge win for the forces of fear. Even if we just look at the damage to lives and property, the costs were tremendous -- 2,977 people killed and $100 billion lost. Yet this trauma is dwarfed by the damage incurred by our response.
As of today, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have claimed 5,860 of "our" lives and 900,000 of "theirs." 32,799 American troops have been wounded, as well as 1.7 million Iraqis and Afghans.

Plus we've spent over $1.15 trillion fighting these wars.

Now, I'm not a hopeless liberal who believes that war is always wrong. Stopping terrorists from getting weapons of mass destruction is one of the greatest challenges of our age. I supported our government when it chose to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq. And I'm tremendously proud of our soldiers, including my cousin who has served multiple tours of duty there. Terrorism is a real and present danger.

Yet in watching the Egyptian people, with their shouts of "Selmiyya, Selmiyya - We are Peaceful," I'm wondering how much of our response has been based in reality, and how much has been based in fear.

For decades, Mubarak used the threat of Islamic fundamentalism to justify his dictatorship. In the name of fighting terrorism, he killed thousands and terrorized millions. In reaction to his fears about the potential for future violence, he created ever greater levels of actual violence.

Yet today, courage triumphed over fear. Freedom triumphed over repression. Nonviolence triumphed over terrorism. And today, the people of Egypt proved, yet again, how the power of the human soul can be delayed but not denied.

For almost a decade, and with all the best intentions, we've been perpetrating great violence in the Middle East. We've given voice to our fears, and the costs have been high.

But times are changing. The world's evolving. People are waking up. And in our hearts, and in our foreign policy, it's time for us to change as well. Today, the people of Egypt have reminded us about the true nature of democracy.

Will we listen?