Sunday, January 30, 2011

Middle East Awakenings



I have been watching events in the Middle East with great interest. In some ways, it reminds me of what happened in Eastern Europe as the Soviet Union's stranglehold fell apart. Something beyond the events in any given nation over there is happening. I don't have words to put to it, but seeing powerful, mostly non-violent demonstrations spread from country to country is kind of amazing. And it could be sign of things to come more globally.

Here are few interesting links. The website Common Dreams has a Twitter Feed on Egypt, which is totally fascinating to see, and impossible to keep up with. But that's ok.

Petteri offered a good summary on recent history in Egypt, and the roles that the U.S., Britain, and others have played there.

Reports on events in Yemen aren't as easy to find, and also seem to imply that no ouster of leadership will occur there. I'd say this is speculative reporting, because who knows what will happen?

Meanwhile, President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and the rest continue to spin in circles, avoiding any declaration of Egypt's government as a dictatorship, saying little on Yemen, while suggesting that changes in policies, including aid, might be coming.

Decades of supporting corrupt, oppressive regimes for monetary and power gains is a difficult pattern to let go of. I don't expect our government to do so easily. That, too, might require a grassroots awakening of the populace before any significant change will come.

As for now, may the people in Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere be fortified with courage, compassion, and non-violent presence, whatever comes their way.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

spinning in circles indeed! after all, who sold $billions of weapon systems to Egypt and who's afraid of upsetting the 'special relationship' with Israel?

Om PBS Newshour thursday, US Vice President Joe Biden expressed support for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and spun the protesters as being "some middle-class folks."

Responding to a question from Jim Lehrer, he said: "... I think the time has come for Hosni Mubarak ... to begin to move in the direction of being more responsive to the needs of some the people out there, a lot of the people out there protesting are middle-class folks."


http://www.nowpublic.com/world/joe-biden-says-egypt-president-hosni-mubarak-should-not-step-down-2752055.html#ixzz1CZh081yM

Nathan said...

Joe Biden tends to blurt out what the rest of the administration is really thinking.

Marcus said...

Hi Nathan,

What worries me in all this is the plight of the Egyptian Christians.

Already they are being brutally persecuted to the point of being 'cleansed' from Egypt by radical Muslim groups (with the world looking on in near silence) and now their fears are growing.

So frightened are the Coptic Christians that on Monday Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Church, expressed support for Mr. Mubarak. More here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703439504576116222399438428.html?mod=fox_australian

And former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton has said “It is really legitimate for the Copts to be worried about instability following Mubarak’s fall and his replacement with the Muslim Brotherhood.”

I've seen videos on Buddhist blogs showing street violence set against music as if in some kind of celebration of anger and mob-rule.

Sadly, mobs turn nasty and revolutions more so. For me, my biggest prayer is for peace, and for the safety of all - especially the vulnerable Christians of Egypt.

Marcus _/\_

Nathan said...

I wouldn't take anything Mr. Bolton has to say too seriously. The man's history of thuggish lies is entirely shameful.

With that said, your concerns are fair. I share them because their is no way of knowing what will come from all of this. And small minority groups are often the first in trouble if destructive, oppressive elements take over.

The mainstream media is downplaying cooperative efforts that are going on between Christians and Muslims.

For example:

http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/religion_theseeker/2011/01/muslims-shield-christians-for-christmas-in-egypt.html

http://rockportconservatives.blogspot.com/2011/01/good-news-muslims-showed-solidarity.html

This article presents a more nuanced view of Coptics in Egypt:

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/high-stakes-and-hopes-for-egypts-christians-in-historic-protests/

I really believe that in contrast to other demonstrations that have happened around the world, such as those in Burma a few years back, what happened in Tunisia, and what's happening now in Egypt (and Yemen and Jordan) is much more on the peaceful end of the spectrum. Not that there has been no violence, or deaths, but that it could easily have been a hell of a lot worse.

Violent images make for "good" news stories - sell ads and sell newspapers. Ramping up the divide between groups who have had conflicts also sells, and keeps people locked in the old narratives.

I don't know what will come in all of this. Whatever comes, I will continue to wish for peace and human rights for everyone over there. But if you consider the size of these protests, the length, and the fact that dictators have either been toppled, or are on the edge after all this time - without hundreds or thousands of people dying in the process - it's quite amazing.

Petteri Sulonen said...

To chime in, yeah, this is about as peaceful as revolutions of this scale get, and Bolton is an ass. Or no, that would be an insult to asses.

Also, Pope Shenouda did the Copts a huge disservice by taking the stance he did.

That said, Middle Eastern Christians are in a tight spot. Things have been getting steadily worse for them for decades; the Iraqi Christian community is pretty much finished since the American invasion. I do hope things turn out well for them. (Hell, I'm married to one, so I should.)

But fear for their safety is not sufficient reason to side with a bloodstained dictator. If their only hope is a Mubarak or a Bashar al-Assad, then they have no hope.

And I do not believe they have no hope.