Saturday, January 29, 2011

Power to the People

They know we’re not satisfied, so we begin to holler
They make us a promise and throw in a few more dollars
There’s no price for happiness, there’s no price for love
 Up goes the price of living, and you’re right back where you was
“(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People"- The Chi-Lites

"This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
-Frederick Douglass
 “I would not refer to him as a dictator” 
-Joe Biden speaking of Hosni Mubarak who has ruled for thirty years, uses emergency decree as a normal state of affairs and exiles, imprisons or tortures political opponents.
At the time of this posting Hosni Mubarak is still the dictator of Egypt.  He has shut down the internet and phone service in an attempt to stop protesters from communicating.  The Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei was placed under house arrest. The state has placed tanks in the streets of Cairo and the police are in full attack mode –water hoses, beatings, tear gas, the works. There are differing reports on how many have been killed so far but one thing seems to be safe to say : the protesters don’t want reform-they want revolution. On MSNBC last night one protester was helpful enough to carry a sign that read “GET OUT” in English, French, Arabic, German and what looked like Spanish.
 Although Mubarak is talking of forming a new government and our President is trying to walk a fine line by talking of reform I think it’s fair to say that reform would not be welcomed by anyone.
The ironic thing in all this is that it was just recently that Secretary of State Clinton chided the “Arab World” for not having greater democratic freedoms.
Of course the US doesn’t really give a damn about democratic freedoms in the Arab world as witnessed by the tepid US response to the overthrow of the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, the US endorsement of the undemocratic Palestinian Authority, the Saudi and Jordanian monarchies, the Gulf States and the hostility to votes that go the wrong way in Gaza, Turkey or Lebanon. Always judge by a government’s actions, not its words.
We will see how this Egyptian situation turns out. It really does come down to how brutal the regime wishes to be in holding on to power against how much can the people truly endure in their quest for freedom. Much of the time state brutality wins. That’s just how it is. But not always….
The other great irony about all this is that if it were Arabs in the West Bank protesting conditions that are just as bad if not worse than those in Egypt the US would not even feel compelled to try to pretend to stand with the protesters. These events should if nothing else caution people who think that some basic universal rights are not desired by all.

QUESTION: What should the US be doing, if anything? Why does the US support so many dictators? Are you disappointed that the US President, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, did not mention that another Nobel Peace Prize winner is under house arrest? Will Mubarak be forced to step down?
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