Choosing Naivete About Egypt

02/07/2011 09:27 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In my lifetime I have only heard of one country's success with nonviolent revolution, and that is the story of India's liberation from England under the fierce leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. On television I see the power of Twitter in amassing such diverse human beings, but I also see that it can happen in some places but not in others.

It couldn't happen in China, or so I believe, both because of the power of the government in overseeing and preempting most events but also because of the people's general agreement about the dangers of democracy especially in a country so densely populated. At least that was the answer I heard when I visited China a couple of years ago and heard from Americans who had been living there for a long time. My mind goes to America, of course, and I think that perhaps as I have always felt, that with the organized commitment of so many people anything could happen. However those are big "ifs". In a country like Egypt where the people seem, for the most part, to stand united in at least the desire to be heard and to come together in sacrifice and positive collaboration, I look from afar with wonder and a bit of longing.

The question haunting me more than a little has to do with the lack of resolve or unity among my fellow Americans, most of whom take democracy for granted to the point of feeling complacent about its existence. There is no real "democracy" unless it is practiced and unless there is dignity for all members of a given society. But here lies a problem: when we are so conditioned to thank God -- in the land of separation of Church and State, mind you -- for being so blessed, how can we gather together to want the real dignity of all the people?

Divided by class and class interest, in America we hardly see the ecological point of view whereby what happens is that thousands of people are abandoned by the very thing we have laid claim to being: the hope and tool of a democratic society. One present example is that thousands of teaching positions are to be cut from public education in New York. Without education there is no educated voting and choosing. And without curiosity there is no motivation to examine what our society is doing and how it could do better.

If Americans are so "exceptional," do we need to examine whether or not the stated values of American society are being lived at all?

We, unlike Egypt, and the people of Egypt, hold our heads high or keep quiet. We are lucky to have what we have. Never mind that we have supported this Egyptian government and many others across the world based on the shortsighted predictions of loyalty to our country. Regimes toppled, loyalty gone, unless of course our foreign policymakers can change it up and play scrambled politics very quickly, we have many times lost valuable allies. But back to our democracy...

To examine how we are doing, we have to be willing to find the ugly, the selfish, and the ecologically impaired and smug ways that we see much of the world. I know there are reasons on the surface that some of us have been social justice fanatics, perhaps possessing a hyperactive "empathy" gland. I remember my daughter questioning the lowering of taxes when she was eight, saying, and "I don't get this, how come when there are so many poor people here in this country".

My own fear is increasingly that we are both not listening to our children and not interested in the points of view of any who would seriously question the integrity of our political processes, and the state of our collective capacity to care for our own people.

To give so much aid to Egypt has no doubt held us in position in terms of Israel and oil, for awhile. Is it that our children and our poorer people are commodities we don't respect and we don't need? Is it their lack of economic and political power that allows us to desist from aid which is respectful and filled with a dignity as well? While announcing the New York teacher cuts, the newscaster was careful to say that Governor Andrew Cuomo had reassured the public there would be no raise in taxes.

My question, perhaps my plea: Are we capable of caring for people who aren't yet marching, are we capable of caring for our citizens, of hearing them and of listening to each other?