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Glimmer of Democracy

February 11th, 2011 1 comment
Hosni Mubarak

Mubarak announced today that he's stepping down.

After days of protesting, the Egyptian people have forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign. He tried to hold on to power, first by ignoring the protesters, then by cracking down, then through flimsy compromises, but the will of the people has won out. Egyptians deserve the praise and sheer joy that their actions have elicited – they were determined, good-humored and, most importantly, peaceful in their demonstrations. The triumph flies in the face of the belief that Islamic countries in Africa and the Middle East are somehow culturally backward and incompatible with democracy.

All of this is a good thing. However, I have learned about many revolutions in history, so I am aware that Egypt will not become a magical modern democracy overnight. I am aware that robust civil society requires time to take root and grow. I am aware that corruption will dog the transition process. I am aware that interested parties will try to benefit from the transition at the expense of the people. I am aware that the military’s involvement in the transition, although probably necessary, sets  a dangerous precedent. I am aware that some Egyptians may feel nostalgia for Mubarak’s rule in the future. I am aware that Egypt may even relapse into dictatorship like various Latin American countries have done so many times, or elect a manipulative pseudo-despot, like Hugo Chavez. I am aware that the hardest part will begin now, when the public will begin to disagree on what shape they thought change and democracy would take.

Still, this is good. It is a bumpy road toward greater freedom, and one that is fraught with obstacles. But you can’t get there by standing still, so I am inspired to see so many Egyptians moving. I am inspired and hopeful.

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