Some of you may remember that I have a friend who lived in Egypt for four years while her husband was there working with the Army Corps of Engineers. Her young son lived there also and attended the American School in Egypt. He was in his high school years and Egypt made a big impression on him. He watches from Maryland as Egypt works to find governance that will meet the needs of its people, not just its wealthy people, or its religiously devout people, but all of the people. He shared the involvement he still feels this week as crowds met in Tahrir Square to ask their newly elected President Morsi to please step down. These crowds of passionate Egyptians were loud and demanding, but not violent. They wanted their voices heard, but they did not want war. They looked for a peaceful resolution to their demands. When President Morsi refused to step down the people looked to the other official arm of the government, the army, to enforce their will. Most of us find it fortunate that the army obliged.
What do the Egyptian people want? Many in America insist that we should make sure that they, at this key point, establish a democratic government, but we are not Egyptians. As much as I love democracy and think that it is, so far, the best idea for fair human governance, I also accept that even democracy can be subverted and constant vigilance is necessary to keep humans in power from letting power lead them astray. Still I would not presume to choose a form of government for another nation. I believe that the Egyptian people want freedom, regardless of what form of government gives them this freedom. They want the right to freedom of expression, they want the right to an education so they can rise up the economic ladder, they want freedom from poverty and access to modern technology that will make their work less physically harsh and will lead to a healthier and longer life. They want laws that do not concentrate all the wealth in the hands of the few and prevent it from sweetening the lives of those who are not so wealthy. It looks like they do not wish to live in a Muslim theocracy, but perhaps that would have been all right if other needs were being met. The Egyptian people do not seem to have a political spokesperson or persons who hold a kind of ideological key to unlock the will of the people. They seem to be sort of feeling their way to a new government, but they do seem clear about what they don’t want. I don’t think they will mind having referendum after referendum to dispose of governments that seem to merely repeat or worsen past practice. In other words, it looks like they are ready to keep trying until they get it right.
The press in America grumbles and mumbles. They are not happy that Obama let the Muslim Brotherhood take power in Egypt in the first place. They want him to accept the actions of the Egyptian military as a coup and discontinue aid. They want him to do whatever magic he is supposed to do to get Egypt to pull a democracy out of the hat this time. But we are seeing a spontaneous expression of the will of the Egyptian people which is a pretty awesome thing when you really think about it. Egypt has to figure this out as a nation. They have not asked for guidance. If they want it they will probably get it, but it looks like they are at a point as a nation where they want to choose their own governance. It is difficult to watch because it seems like a messy way to find new governance, to just keep trying one leader after another until they find the right fit. The nearest analogy is trying to find the right pair of jeans, but this is so much more complex (and important). Do we keep our big self out of this, sit on the sidelines, cheer the Egyptian people on and watch for the outcome. I think we must, however difficult we find it to not intervene unless invited. I wish for Egypt to find that talented statesman who they can elect to lead their nation, a statesman who can send the Egyptian barge of state into calm waters that flow steadily in the desired direction.