About the Hell Breaking Loose in Egypt
It's hard to know whether to feel excited or scared to death about what's been going on in Egypt for the past 10 days or so.
Most of the time, I lean toward the scared end. It's easy to share the feelings expressed by our ad director, Pat Taylor, who watched our newsroom TV for a few minutes Tuesday before wandering into my office and exclaiming: "This is like looking at the abyss and saying, 'Oh, (expletive deleted)! Here we go over Niagara Falls!'"
On the other hand, there's something unnervingly fascinating about it, isn't there?
Though nobody saw it coming, the dramatic sight of hundreds of thousands of people pouring into the streets of Cairo in defiance of their leaders feels genuine. It feels spontaneous. And it feels irresistible. There's a definite sense that history, for better or worse, is being written before our eyes.
Why should people in places like Moore County care about all this? Well, at a minimum, it's disturbing any time you see any country in the grip of anarchy and up for grabs. But this is not just any country. This one has 80 million people and has played a pivotal role in preserving some semblance of peace and stability in the Middle East for several decades now.
More to the point, the current uprising is showing signs of spreading into other tinderbox places. All hell could be about to break loose on a regional or even global level, and it could end up involving us militarily. That has got to be of concern to anyone who lives within earshot of the nation's largest Army base.
At another level, I can't help noticing how much this sudden release of decades of pent-up resentment and hatred feels like the monumental events of a generation or so ago in Eastern Europe.
I was privileged to witness firsthand the immediate aftermath of those events as a media assistance missionary of sorts during the 1990s in newly awakened countries like Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Ukraine. In North Africa now as in Europe then, the motivation of these would-be revolutionaries seems not so much ideological as simply human - a matter of good people, often young, fed up with a bad system and demanding change now.
Unfortunately, we know these kinds of idealistic liberation movements often have a way of getting hijacked by more sinister forces. Let's keep our fingers crossed. So far, there don't seem to be any major overtones of Islamist fundamentalism. If anyone has been agitating to replace repressive secular politicians-turned-dictators with even more repressive ayatollahs, I haven't heard them. Most of the words we've been heard shouted on TV have to do with democracy and economic freedom, not religion.
Anyone in the media business can only shake his head at the immediate, knee-jerk reaction of the Mubarak administration, which has been to try to shut down the means of communication by which common people could find out what was going on and perhaps join in. If it didn't ultimately work in the Eastern Europe of the 1980s, how can can anyone anywhere hope to keep the lid on indefinitely in this age of a wide-open Internet and all its offshoots?
One indication of the shaky state of events is that no one in America - from the White House on down - knows what to make of all this or where it might lead or which side to take. Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have tried to skate deftly down the middle, warning against another Tiananmen Square massacre but falling short of pulling the rug out from under a longtime ally. And to their credit, Republican leaders aren't trying to second-guess them.
At this writing, looks as if Mubarak has announced he's not running again. It's still way too early to know if this movie will have a happy ending - or even what a hypothetical happy ending might look like. But at this point, it sure is hard to tear yourself away from the screen, isn't it?
Steve Bouser is editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 693-2470 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
More like this story