Saturday, March 19, 2011

Public Choice

It is an incredible thing to see an Egyptian election with queues of unmolested, smiling voters instead of lines of riot police. There are no knife-wielding thugs, no smug State Security officers scurrying about gaming things. The sky is clear, there’s no tear gas clouding vision. Voters aren’t scuffling with police outside, banging on the doors to get in, chanting slogans of woe and injustice.

Inside, there are no poll workers huddling to stuff ballot boxes.

For the first time ever, people are voting with their national ID card, no complicated voting cards needed. Nobody is obstructing volunteer poll monitors, gruffly asking them what they think they’re doing or kicking them out. Judges are back, in their unusual but essential role as the best election supervisors Egypt can have. Photographers are free to snap shots inside the stations, there’s nothing to hide. And yes, voters are young and old, men and women, religious and not, rich and not, literate and unlettered. Egypt today held a real referendum that looks like its people, not a fake acclamation staged by an absolute ruler.

Does it say anywhere in the books that revolutions make the unreal happen?

*AP Photos

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fin du Régime

In the end, they leave, with hollow eyes and a few plain words. Stripped of their ill-gotten power, they are miserable, ashen, and base. All of the rhetoric they spewed lingers like a bad smell, soon to evaporate in the fresh air of freedom. "The Egyptian people still need to develop a culture of democracy. Their grievances are economic, not political. The ruling party won a sweeping victory. The extremists are going to take over. The government supports limited income groups. Police torture is just a few individual cases. The constitutional amendments strengthen democracy." Today, all of that is over.

How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished.

(AP Photo)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Popular Sovereignty

A citizen outside the gates of parliament, 9 February 2011.
(AP Photo)

Friday, February 04, 2011

To Egypt, with love

Tahrir Square, February 1, 2011; "We've come from Aswan; neither Mubarak nor Soliman." Photo: Tamer El-Ghobashy

Before we enter the phase of intense politicking to game a post-Mubarak order, the deals being made to contain the public’s unequivocal demand to choose their leaders, I want to express love and awe of all those average people who said enough. Enough repression. Enough thievery. Enough rotten ideas about the apathy and inaction of the people. I have no doubt that the grim realities of elite politics will soon overtake events, as they always do. But I’ll never forget how ordinary citizens completely upended the best laid plans of the rulers in Cairo, Washington, and Tel Aviv. They forced Hosni Mubarak to ditch his dynastic project, posthaste, and to openly express his hatred of the Egyptian people. They forced the Americans to yet again confront the folly of building alliances with loathed dictators. And they reminded Israelis that Arabs want to rule themselves, whether Israel likes it or not. No amount of muddled theories or elite compromises will ever mask the extraordinary clarity of what happened in Egypt this winter. I'm happy to be alive to see it.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Clinging to power at any cost, with criminal disregard for human life, Hosni Mubarak dispatched armed gangs into the amassed peaceful pro-democracy crowds in Tahrir Square. Plainclothes police and hired baltagiyya armed with whips and batons tore into the crowds on horseback, beating the demonstrators like savage marauders. NDP members and public sector clerks marched in processions, including uniformed police officers, holding aloft Egyptian flags and photos of Mubarak to perform support for him.

This is what Mubarak meant in his speech yesterday, that "everyone must choose between chaos and order," between his rule and his violence.

(AP Photos, February 1, 2011)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's about Representation

Today, Yemeni protestors went out into the streets of Sanaa to call for an end to social inequality, vote rigging, and the chokehold of president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ruling party.

In 1968, American civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin wrote, “We would be mistaken to think that the only desires of young Negroes today are to have a job, to have a decent house, to be well educated, to have medical care. All these things are very important, but deeper and more profound is the feeling of young Negroes today—through all classes, from the lumpenproletariat to the working poor, the working classes, the middle classes, and the intelligentsia—that the time has come when they should have power, a voice in the solution of problems which affect them.”

Today in Suez, 29-year-old glass factory worker Mohamed Fahim told a reporter, “It’s our right to choose our government ourselves. We have been living 29 years, my whole life, without being able to choose a president. I’ve grown bald, and Mubarak has stayed Mubarak,” he said, rubbing his bare scalp.

*AP Photo.