Sometimes events happen that are larger, much larger, than us, that force us to view them, even if we want to turn away. Events that will be written down in history books, with much explanation as to how and why they came about, and what resulted from their existence. But, in the moment, in the whirlwind of the present, these events catch us up like pieces of paper, drawn inexplicably toward the vortex in the middle.
I remember several times when I felt myself in the vortex of history. One was when I saw a picture on the front page of the Berlin Wall being torn down. Or earlier, when the Challenger exploded. Or when my dad and I watched the House vote to impeach President Clinton. But none more vivid than that day when my dad turned on the news, and saw that Gorbachev had been overthrown in a coup. It was the first time I had heard that word. A coup d’etat. And we watched as the coup leaders were overthrown, and the hero of those two days, Boris Yeltsin, later became President of the Commonwealth of Independent States, for the Soviet Union was no more.
And now we come to the protests in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Yemen. One dictatorship has already been toppled. Another one appears to be on the brink. The third may yet survive through reforms. But change is coming to the Middle East. The youth are in revolt. Opposition groups had become emboldened. One only hopes that the change is more freedom, more access to education, to higher paying jobs, to expression, than has previously been the case. These regimes have been in power so long that their centers are beginning to rot. Will their centers be cast out before the rot can reach the whole fruit?
This is the true war on terror. This is the true way to victory. Not by going after a few men in the desert who spread terror, but by going after governments that spread terror to thousands. To governments that are dictatorships in fact if not in name. To places that are crying out for freedom, and yet wonder at the silence coming at them from the rest of the world. Not the silence of words, but the silence of action.
And yet it is so easy to help. Make sure the truth is known. Shame those who can do something to do something. Retweet messages from Egypt. Write blog posts. Contact your news stations. Contact your leaders. Or at least make a ruckus that they cannot mistake for complacency, or apathy, concerning these protests.
Remember, many of the unpopular regimes in the Middle East are propped up by U.S. dollars, including Egypt and Yemen. Do we wish to continue rewarding countries for suppressing their own people? Our interests lie with those who wish to be free, not those who would suppress them. Our allies should be people who share our ideals, not just those who share our enemies. Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy.
During the Great Depression, the world saw dictators come to power. In the wake of the Great Recession, might we see their power crumble at last?
If you’re on Twitter, the big protest in Egypt is set for less than three hours from now. You can find a bunch of Egyptian tweeters on my list, @litdreamer/politics.