Home > Arab Uprisings, Arab-Israeli Realations, Cairo, January 25th > From Cairo, An Opportunity for a Better Understanding

From Cairo, An Opportunity for a Better Understanding

The political transformation that Egypt is undergoing today is an incredibly beautiful, exciting, and perhaps unprecedented opportunity for growth and understanding between the West and the Middle East.  The Middle East of 2011 faces a legacy of more than 200 years of colonization benefiting Europeans and Americans at the expense of the peoples who have historically lived there.  French and British flags in the region no longer fly anywhere other than above their respective embassies, yet many Middle Eastern countries remain economically and militarily reliant on Europe and America in a manner largely reminiscent of the colonial period.  In Egypt, the Mubarak Regime has been an embodiment of this reliance for 30 years.  In the past few weeks however, through public demonstrations and protests which have enthralled the international community and terrified totalitarian regimes throughout the region, the Egyptian people have freed themselves from the burden of that particular domestic oppression and simultaneously told the world that they, the people of Egypt, have taken control of their future.

From a legacy of colonization, and entirely unsupported by foreign powers, a peoples’ movement has arisen in Egypt to force their will on the government and reform the nation to fit their dream of what it should be.   The Obama Administration’s soft and often confusing stance on the issue has emphasized this lack of Western interference and highlighted that this has truly been a movement of the Egyptian people.  In fact, the Egyptians have roundly dismissed Western regime building in their country by ousting the American backed and supported Mubarak, striking a blow for a more legitimate form of Self-Determination and Self-Governance in Egypt, one which in both its basic demands and national pride echoes the ideologies of the American and French Revolutions.

Given this background, the beauty of these protests and their potential to help build relationships of understanding between the United States and the Arab world becomes more apparent.  Freedom and Democracy are things worth fighting for, as popular protester and Google Executive Wael Ghonim famously said upon his release from State Security early last week.  Those who have fought that fight, no matter their country or ethnicity, have a common ground on which to stand in relating to and understanding each other.

As Americans remember every Memorial Day, freedom and liberty come at a heavy cost and are not easily won.  However, when earned through the struggle of Self-Determination, by throwing off outside influences and internal oppression, the value of true freedom is fully appreciated.  A country that has done this successfully knows itself, and therefore knows to a much greater degree what it wants of the world around it.  This movement has been a proud declaration from the Egyptian youth and people to the Western world that they treasure the same values as the West, are willing to fight for them, and demand to be recognized on the world stage as such.

Egypt will reach its own status-quo from this struggle.  It may not happen tomorrow, but it will happen.  What form it takes and when the end result is realized depends largely on the military now, but the Egyptian military’s close relationship and history with the people, based on its compulsory composition and perceived heroic role in the 1952 revolution, indicates that the new Egyptian government will be secular, will protect the rights of the people, and will be inclusive.

The movement of the past weeks has never been Islamic, nor will it become so.  There is no political party both strong and experienced enough to take control of Egypt alone, so dialogue and cooperation, which have already begun, will inevitably be necessary for governance.  In short, should the relationship between the Egyptian military and people remain as it has for the past 60 years, the new Egyptian government will be a government by, of and for the Egyptian people; just as they have demanded, proudly and without fear, since January 25th.  All that said, it will remain important for the Egyptian people to continue to take to the streets as they did yesterday to reinforce their presence and remind the military that it is accountable to the citizenry.

In demanding their rights so fiercely the Egyptian people have opened the door to a better understanding and dialog between themselves, other Arab nations and the peoples of the West.  Unlike the revolution of 1952, Egypt’s present uprising shares a common secular ideology with the uprisings, revolutions and movements of Western independence.  Over the past few weeks there has been no antagonistic Pan-Arabism on the streets to scare the West away from relating to the passions and ideals of the movement.  Furthermore, notions that this has been an Islamic revolution are almost criminally negligent.  The Egyptian people are demanding the same rights and representations demanded by the citizens of Western governments; if Western societies can manage to recognize this, moving past allegations and fear mongering about the nonexistent rise of Islam or an aggressive Pan-Arabism in the Middle East, the potential for unprecedented exchanges and growth between these cultures is undeniable.   In the West, actions could be taken to move public perception of Arab peoples from one of distrust, which assumes an inherent dissimilarity, to one of recognition and understanding based on the common values this Revolution has championed.

Egypt has taken a giant stride in advancing the potential for cooperation and understanding between the Middle East and the West.  They’ve definitively shown their critics that Arabs are often just like Westerners; that they have many of the same values and demands and are willing to fight for the same results.  Hopefully the West can get past its own stereotypes and take advantage of this opportunity to build better relations, and the promise of a better future, with the peoples of this region.

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  1. Katie Plofchan
    February 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Love the picture and the article was fantastic, Tommy!

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