Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A revolution for the rest of us

My mom told me a funny story today. I found it endearing but more than that it finally made me notice what I had been sensing for a while. There was something about the Egyptian revolution that always struck me as unusual. Bear with me, there is more nuance than that. Even as the storm clouds of change were forming, and the wind of democracy was only a slight breeze, my American family and friends all told me how closely they were following the news. Then, as events progressed, and even during the internet/cell phone black out, there was a sense that the world was watching - and watching with a fervor not customarily granted to foreign affairs. "Tahrir Square" became a household name. Suddenly everyone knew all the Egyptian players and their potential next moves. I was surprised. I was expecting to experience the phenomenon of being wrapped up in a dramatic event abroad only to have it mentioned briefly below the fold back home. The opposite was true. After my return from Egypt I found that my friends knew as much about the revolution as I did, including all the Cairene street names.
My mom attended her Toastmaster's meeting this morning. She told me a man from Buffalo, New York gave a speech documenting the 18 days in Tahrir. He showed newspaper clippings and timelines. He was not Egyptian. I had to ask myself, why was this news story particularly gripping? Americans are notorious for not following events in other countries, our attention span when it comes to news cycles rivals that of a dachshund puppy, so how in the most over-stimulated of times did Tahrir Square capture the attention of the average citizen for over three weeks? The answer is perhaps more obvious than the question. As described by experts and bystanders the world over, this revolution was secular, peaceful, and justified. These were everyday citizens coming together to say we don't like the status quo. Now any parallels drawn would require several caveats, but I would hint that I know very few Americans who would say they are pleased with the way things are going here. America was glued to the TV set for more than just the foreign policy significance. Maybe we finally wanted to see something start heading in the right direction for a change. Maybe we all felt we needed this.

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