The Arab Spring: "Hey Mubarak, Nobody Likes You"
Fiza asked me "What are your thoughts on the Arab Spring?"
To be honest, I didn't see it coming. From the students I talked to/debated with at the American University in Cairo (AUC) to the man on the street who sold fruit to me, I didn't see it coming. From the students, I heard bitterness in their voices but never enough anger to start a revolution. After all, you do need a certain amount of anger to fuel yourself to camp out on the streets, risk your life and your loved ones too. Maybe anger is the wrong word, but you do need something inside of you to become part of a revolution. And while I constantly heard Egyptians expressing their unhappiness with the state, they all seemed to have such a defeatist attitude in the end.
I remember arguing with one AUC student proclaiming that change is possible, that with hope anything can be possible. I was obviously reeking of typical American idealistic values. I probably could have just worn a sign around my neck saying "YES WE CAN" or "FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY WILL RULE" It would have had the same effect as my words did on this AUCian. He was convinced that Egypt would never change because its people were so entrenched in its corrupt system. He thought the only way for anything to change would be through one person, a leader who rises up to fight for the common good of the people. Even if that meant fighting against them. In the middle of our debate, he just looked at me with slight disgust and said something along the lines of "You have your Obama."
And with those words, everything became clear. He was right. Here in the U.S. we did have our Obama. It was perfect. We had endured 8 long years of hell (well for a lot of us. I won't speak for all) and all of a sudden, someone new came along and swept us off our feet. He gave riveting speeches on hope, change and how there actually was a light at the end of the tunnel. Honestly, it felt like we were in one of those inspiring movies. Finally, someone was there to tell us everything was going to be ok.
Yet here we are....a divided nation drowning in debt, fumbling to keep up with the rest of the world in terms of education and healthcare, still trying to get out of our own wars, and still terrorized by hatred stemming from all around us. Both domestic and foreign.
However, that is a tangent thought, which is already being discussed in every other news outlet across the U.S.
Going back to Egypt, I said that I didn't see it coming. Not that I didn't see any change coming at all, but I didn't think it would come in this raw form of a revolution. And although everything seems to be in chaos, I am glad that at least the system has been uprooted. Imagine having to live in a state where the police are not there to protect you, where you can't believe your own media because they aren't allowed to say anything that goes against the government. Imagine living under that for 30 years.
These revolutions are not only standing up to the corrupt Arab dictators, but also to North America and Western Europe. The revolutions are proof that the people (in this case Arabs) know what they want. And they don't want to wage a war or Islamic jihad on the so-called infidels around the world. And they certainly do not all want to pledge allegiance to terrorists. They just want their basic rights. The right to live freely and without fear of punishment from an unjust regime. Is it really too much to ask your own government for a stable economy, jobs, to be treated with respect and dignity? After all, the duty of a government is to take care of the nation and its people. Somehow Arab governments have simply assumed in recent decades that their job is to maintain order. However, they seem to confuse the word "maintain" with "silence." All fingers definitely pointing right now to Bashar al-Assad's Ramadan massacre against his own Syrians.
I believe that for Egypt, desperate times called for desperate measures and it was time to go out into the streets. Egyptians were realizing that they cannot simply wait and ask nicely anymore. However, now that they have seized what rightfully belongs to them, it remains to be seen how it will all be handled. Will Egypt decide to turn completely secular? Or perhaps religious parties may take the majority in their parliament? How long will the military be in charge?
The most incredible part about Egypt's revolution was watching how Egyptians from all walks of life were coming together to take ownership of their country. And they did with respect for each other. I was completely moved by pictures I saw of Egyptians sweeping the streets with their brooms during the revolution. People were camping out laughing and talking under the threat of tear gas, looting and other violence. Even though they knew they were potentially risking their lives for this cause, Egyptians stood together. They set up neighborhood watches and protected each other, no matter what background or religion they came from. This was a revolution for Egypt. Not Muslims or Christians or any political parties. For Egypt.
These days, we can only wait and see...and hope for the best for Egypt and the Middle East's future. But at least now we can say that something in the Arab world has certainly changed.