A Lesson in Liberation

14 02 2011

     The ousting of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak after eighteen days of peaceful, determined protests across the country represents yet another moment in the continuum that is human progress.  However, what must be remembered, and what is so glaringly evident in Egypt at present, is that this continuum only exists as a result of the indefatigable efforts of regular people; those individuals who are willing to speak out and boldly defy existing norms and institutions in defense of freedom and social justice.

     Moments like these are peppered throughout the history of all nations, and the Egyptian people have taken their place on its stage.

     But change does not simply occur on its’ own.  The impetus for change begins and ends with the will of the people; their eagerness to get their hands dirty, to devote their efforts to a movement for positive change, and their willingness to do so en masse, alongside their fellow country men and women irrespective of their political persuasion.  We see this reality in Liberation Square as well as in the grassroots campaigns that helped bring about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the follow-up Voting Rights Act of ‘65 and a host of other political achievements throughout the history of this nation.

     Vigilance must be maintained, however, or Egypt will experience the near disillusionment we are experiencing currently as progressives in the U.S., whose president has failed to deliver on a multitude of promises, riding a wave of support and commitment that has certainly begun to falter.  Promises will only be followed up on provided we, the citizenry, continue to apply pressure.

     The Egyptian people must continue the struggle for progress; Tahrir square may be cleaned and slowly emptying, but its political and governmental condition is still bathed in the stench of dictatorship and years of criminal repression.  The struggle must continue.  President Mubarak has been ousted, but his cronies remain nearby and on the fringe and the role of governing must not remain in the hands of the military apparatus, no matter which army we are speaking of in whichever country.

     Those seeking progressive change in the United States must continue to struggle.  The election of an African American who professes to adhere to the liberal notions of democracy, human rights, progressive taxation, social justice and anti-war sentimentality, will not in itself bring about the legalization of gay marriage, the end to foreign occupation, nuclear disarmament, the creation of jobs on a scale necessary to put our entire nation back to work, or the abandonment of the desire to skirt international law in the fog of war.  Indeed, as we all have seen, such professions have fallen far short of actualizing themselves in practical terms.  After years of illegal warfare, unprecedented infringements in the sphere of civil rights and extreme mismanagement of public funds, the hunger for change was undeniable in the elections of 2008.  But this hunger still remains.

     Although these pronouncements are truly a welcome beginning in our nation’s political discourse, it is not the only necessary ingredient in the recipe for progressive action; it could even be determined a garnish and nothing more.  The incessant, determined and uncontainable pressure exerted by social movements, rather, provides the foundation for any such changes.

     Let the events in Egypt reignite the flame of activism and progressive, grassroots movements; the true seeds of revolution and progress all over the world.  Let us take some pointers from the people who have dedicated their safety, jobs, and even their lives to the struggle for human emancipation in Alexandria, Suez, Cairo, elsewhere in Egypt and across what we call the Middle East these past weeks.  Mass demonstrations, divestment campaigns, and other forms of public outcry are just a few of the tools at our disposal.  But it is the strength, solidarity and determination of the citizenry that is the crucial component.  This kind of spirit and commitment to achieving tangible results in the realm of social justice is something we could all use a little more of.

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