"We own their Army. They won't fire on their citizens. Don't worry." An Arab friend calmed me in one instant while the next found me thinking: who is this United States of America? Who is this country that owns the armies of other countries?
Now even a political naïf like me knows the United States buys its security with dollars and our safety has come before our ideals. Now that those ideals are being demanded, fought for, suffered for by Egyptian citizens do we rethink our policy or do we stick with the "those ideals are just for us" philosophy? Our God-given rights, and all of you who think God is a bad word, well one can say Creator because that's what our founding fathers said, but since we are talking about the same thing I will use the word God and risk the flak Russell Simmons garnered when he used the word God in a book he wrote. I mean, folks, do right-wing conservatives, Jesus freaks, and religious nuts need to hijack "God" too?
In any case, do we as a country believe God bestowed inalienable rights on us but to hell with everyone else? All this "God is on our side" rhetoric that everyone always claims, well, my view: God has to be on everyone's side for the highest good, the right thing, or we are not talking about God, Spirit, the Universe, whatever you chose to call It, this power that breathes us day in and day out.
So are we all Egyptians? Are we all in Tahrir Square or are we here and they are there? Where does our self-interest start and stop and is it, does it have to be, at the expense of, on the backs of others? When will we start to practice what we preach? We certainly didn't when we were trying to free the world from communism in the Eisenhower years with apartheid in our own backyard.
Is this a good time to stop being hypocrites? Are we shooting ourselves in the foot, being disloyal to our allies if we support this quest for what we all want and need: freedom. We are in an area of the world where dictatorships are the norm. Do we watch leaders of governments we supported, autocratic, freedom stifling dictatorships that enriched rulers and their cronies while leaving the rest of the population in poverty, suppress their citizens? We have been witness to quests to overthrow dictators only to be brutally squashed and silenced. Now right before our eyes we are watching a movement rise up against a dictator we have supported, who has served us for good bad or indifferent and we have to choose. Who do we owe our allegiance to?
A newscaster made the point about army involvement, government involvement, clear for me with a simple analogy. If two rival gangs were fighting in Times Square what would happen? If we own the Egyptian Army why didn't they step in to stop, or prevent the violence? Why are there reports after reports of deaths, arrests and torture? If the Army is ours then why are they standing by and letting this happen? Another reporter remarked our government has three ways of dealing with dictators who won't go: shame, diplomacy, an appeal to common decency and money.
We are all aware we are walking a fine line as a country in an area ruled by monarchs and besieged by Islamic factions out to get us. We have bartered friendship for freedom, oil for security, supported governments at the expense of its people. When do we say enough is enough? When do we let people decide their own fates, let them be free and throw a caution to the wind in the hope the faith the belief they will do the right thing for themselves and therefore for all of us. These demonstrations have been peaceful protests demanding what we take for granted. We have the power to prevent a Tiananmen Square, to bring a peaceful transition. Can we do it? Will we do it? Will we risk the wrath of our oil supplying allies and put our interests second and humanities first?
I had the pleasure of visiting Egypt and thoroughly enjoyed and felt part of this great land, this ancient culture as I am sure anyone who has visited has. It is inevitable. Is Cairo the center of the world? All I can say is I felt a pull there. That same pull that lures tourists from around the world. One feels a connection to this great land, the Nile and I marveled at the guides, the Egyptologists who explain the kings, the queens, the pyramids and other sacred places that dot this land as well as the people -- friendly, outgoing, independent, hard workers with a quick and ready smile. Tourism is a major industry for Egypt. Everyone explained that tourism drives the economy and when it falters, everyone suffers. These freedom fighters, their supporters are risking their economic stability in a time and place where it is in short supply. They must be so fed up by the status quo they know this fight for freedom is worth it. Are we just as fed up with government policies that don't support the same ideals we live by? Do we need to exist on the misery of others?
I am sure President Obama is working behind the scenes to bring a transition that will satisfy the people and give them true elections yet we can see our money doesn't buy puppets from any side of the equation. We have accepted corruption and dictatorships in the name of stability and now that stability has given way to a movement for freedom that hopefully is unstoppable and has come back to roost at our door. Inshallah the right thing prevails and then we can truly say "we are all Egyptians" because in my book, we are.