These are Amazing Times

For the past several weeks I have been following the news from Africa and the Middle East with great interest.  First Tunisia, then Egypt.  Now protests against dictatorships and in favor of democracy have emerged in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iran.  Other governments in the region have tried preemptive measures to appease potential protesters, although who can say how long they will be placated, if at all.  These are amazing times.

Egypt 2
Photo courtesy New York Times

As I sit down to write my nieces letters about these events for them to open when they become adults, I find myself stopping mid-letter, waiting for the latest development, waiting to see how it all turns out.  Because of course by the time they open these letters in more than a decade, the outcome will be much clearer.

There are those who are fearful that majority Muslim countries are not fit for democracy, fearful that “Islamists” (the latest bogeymen of the media) will take hold and turn the countries into America-hating and terrorist-generating nations.  Maybe so, although that seems unlikely. 

In the grand arc of history, people seem more concerned with jobs, food, education, housing, and healthcare.  If they have those things – which, generally speaking, they have more opportunity to secure in a functioning democracy – they have less reason to turn to terrorism and violence.  Most terrorists have come from countries with repressive governments and Al Qaeda’s initial grievances against the US were about American support for the Saudi monarchy and the presence of the US military in Saudi Arabia.

Sure, it is a gamble.  We won’t know until many years how it all turns out.  But it seems particularly undemocratic to tell people that they aren’t fit to have a democracy.  Shouldn’t it be up to them to decide?  And in the long run, which side of history do the Americans want to be on?  The side that props up strongmen dictators whose regimes repress their population, or the side that supports the flourishing of democracy (albeit without invading countries to turn them into democracies)?

I’ll place my bet on supporting democracy.  Twenty, thirty, forty years from now, we’ll look back at these times and realize not only were they amazing, but they were the start of the renaissance of the Arab world and an era that saw increasing stability throughout the region.

0 thoughts on “These are Amazing Times

  1. i desperately want this to be the case. even though i do not make it a practice to hope, i’ll at least let myself this time around. they are facing huge hurdles and their real test has yet to come. when it does, i will be praying that they align themselves on the right side of history instead of eschewing the heritage and lessons the progressive world has to offer.

  2. It’s very thoughtful of you to write to your nieces about these historic events. I’m sure your nieces will learn a great deal from you and consider you as one of their best teachers.

  3. I wonder if Asia will ever see a wave of protests like this. Thailand has their red shirts which so far have been unsuccessful in returning the government to the people. But even with those protests, Thailand seems to be a bit ahead of its neighbors on the democracy scale (compared to say, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, etc). And what will happen when 1 billion Chinese decide they want to have a democratic government?

  4. @sgtowns – The red shirts aren’t really a grassroots uprising, though.  They are being led by another group of elites.  Still, though, you could imagine the day that people here do rise up.  I’m sure leaders of other countries in the region are keeping an eye on event in the middle east, perhaps sleeping a bit less peacefully at night.

  5. @SisterMae – We’re shooting for 18 years old, but who knows if they’ll appreciate them at that age.  Hopefully, they’ll keep them and be able to re-read and further appreciate them as they get older.  Glad to hear your daughter enjoyed the letters you wrote for her.@Dezinerdreams – And it isn’t like the Americans have been flaw-free in their choices of their elected officials!  Ha ha!@ElusiveWords – Even when things get pretty ugly in the fights between political parties in countries like the US, Canada, UK, etc. it is good to keep in mind that we aren’t having to put our lives on the line to get the right to have those disagreements.  It makes political apathy even more shameful.@icapillas – Well, who knows how much they will learn but hopefully it will be interesting reading nonetheless.  =D@jace1982 – So many of them forget that their job is to “lead”, not to “steal” or “line their pockets”.@Southeast_Beauty – Once you cease to have hope, all else is lost.@ThePrince – No doubt that overthrowing the dictators is just the first of a thousand steps, and perhaps the easiest one.  One thing I like to recall is that as you read the history of other democracies, say the US, there have been plenty of tough times, challenges, and dark days.  Eventually, though, things sem to work themselves out pretty well.

  6. Yes, only time will tell if indeed this revolution will give its people a better life. The people in the Philippines have democracy but it is a country in so much chaos because the democratic leaders are not clean. Is it really a democracy?

  7. I often think of the USA when watching the news of Egypt. We take everything for granted while these people fight and die for the freedoms we have. Apathy among our people to get involved in politics. We complain from our lounge chairs but will not get even to vote in an election.

  8. @AppsScraps –  That depends on whether you read the two millennium as being a repeating cycle or an evolving one, I suppose. Perhaps this is just a blip and in the very long view – another 2,000 years – nothing will have really changed. We’ll see.@icepearlz –  Thailand is similar – democracy in name but it functions imperfectly on many levels. I remember reading that corruption was something that took fifty years or so to significantly reduce in Western European countries. Perhaps countries in SE Asia still have several decades of work to be done?@manilajones –  I hope so, too, although from the news it looks like the process will be less peaceful in subsequent countries. Several deaths in Iran, Libya, and Bahrain.@Daniele Valois –  Thanks, Daniele. Will you be keeping your blog going? I’m a bit fitful about checking my Google Reader but will keep up with you there, too.@yang1815 –  With the success rate we’ve had with that approach, you would think we should continue at it, right? =D

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