Thursday, February 10, 2011

Walk Like an Egyptian


While I was in the middle of my 12-hour-work-marathon today, I had CNN on in the background, eagerly awaiting news of what was almost promised to be Mubarak finally getting the hint and stepping down. The mounting Cairo crowds were jubilant; our CIA director Panetta was telling Congress the resignation was imminent... Hour after hour went by, and then finally the man showed up on his television station. This is how his speech began (text from the BBC):

"...I am proud of you as the new Egyptian generation calling for a change to the better, dreaming and making the future.

First and foremost, I am telling you that the blood of your martyrs and injured will not go in vain. I assure you that I will not relent in harshly punishing those responsible. I will hold those who persecuted our youth accountable with the maximum deterrent sentences.

I tell the families of those innocent victims that I suffered plenty for them, as much as they did. My heart was in pain because of what happened to them, as much as it pained their hearts.

I am telling you that heeding to your voice, your message and demands is an irretraceable commitment.

I am determined to live up to my promises with all firmness and honesty and I am totally determined to implement (them), without hesitation or reconsideration...."

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I'm sure I had an incredulous look on my face: Did he just say he was going to avenge the youth who had been killed? And that he heeded their call for change? Um... I'm pretty sure it was Mubarak who hired the thugs who beat and killed the anti-Mubarak protesters. And that the protesters' "call for change" was a call for MUBARAK TO RESIGN. I felt like I was crazy when I was listening to him, as I'm sure the protesters watching must have felt! (That's the problem with "crazy": Crazy people make YOU feel crazy! They're not usually lunatics waving their arms around with their eyes popping out; no, the ones who are really good at it are masters of double-speak, of seemingly saying something while not saying anything at all.)

Listening to Mubarak tonight actually made me mad: GET OUT, ALREADY, you nasty old bastard! You've got your billions of dollars that you've stolen from your country; you've got your 10 or so estates in various cities around the world; you're 82 years old and have had your 30 years of absolute tyranny. GET OUT. You've been asked relatively politely (nonviolently) by millions of your own citizens. What, are you waiting for them to storm your palace and string you up by your heels? Do you really want to go out like that?

Shallowly, since I have no stake at all in the matter, I've been "enjoying" the past 2 weeks of HARD NEWS coming out of Egypt. Finally, I can turn on a 24-hour news network and see actual, meaningful NEWS instead of interviews with the Kardashians and/or blandly-opining panels of intermarried/intereducated East Coast journalists. Again, listening to that kind of stuff constantly, I start to feel like I'M crazy! I'm NOT crazy! That the Kardashians are interviewed for an HOUR by Piers Morgan is crazy! The SAME EXACT opinion showing up in the New York Times and The New Yorker and New York magazine and The Huffington Post and on MSNBC is crazy!

Who knows how it will play out for the Egyptians. I've been impressed with the protesters' "sophistication," for want of a better word. They're not running around chanting "Death to the U.S.!" and "Death to Israel!" (as some Muslim revolutionaries have been known to do on occasion); most likely due, ironically, to the close ties they've had with America for the past 30 years under Mubarak. Lots of business and technology and student exchanges. The protesters aren't backwards/backwoods radicals but rather people who have had a taste of some modern perks like the Internet that have made them hungry for more openness, this time at home.

Watching the events on TV, I keep thinking about the "10 Days That Shook the World" of the Russian Revolution. This is serious, interesting, heady, scary stuff going on. Right now.

My wish for what would happen there in the immediate future? The military overtly takes the protesters' side and tells Mubarak to get out or they'll kill him. The guy's had his chance to retire with dignity. Maybe all he can understand are threats. My second historical preference: The protesters storm the palace and first offer Mubarak a plane ticket to Frankfurt, or wherever else his estates lie, and, if he refuses, kill him. Tsar Nicholas was never offered so much mercy. "Pharaoh Mubarak" has been offered mercy again and again. He needs to take what's offered before it's too late.

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