Thoughts from Kairo

From Nadia El-Awady’s twitter feed on this first full day of freedom in Egypt:

An amazing thing happened yesterday. My country is free. For the first time in its history it is free. (cont)

This came about in the most wonderful way. We did not have a military coup. A foreign country did not invade us to bring us democracy (cont)

Normal people like you and me went out to the streets peacefully and demanded their freedom. An amazing thing happened yesterday.

Those normal people were faced with tremendous hardship in the process. At times they were attacked with brute police force and some died…

Some were faced with sleeping in the cold on the ground and in the rain

And so many others left their work and their families and walked on foot every day for 18 days to demand their freedom

It worked! We are FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Today our country starts with a totally clean slate! Isn’t that the coolest thing? #jan25

I’m an Egyptian revolutionary! I helped topple a dictator! #jan25 #egypt

A huge thank you to science writer Nadia El-Awady for giving us a window into these amazing events. I’ve had tears in my eyes all day, watching this unfold. It’s truly remarkable how the people of Egypt seized freedom with such force and with so little violence.

I don’t doubt that when Egypt’s democracy is as old as the US’s, the 300+ citizens who died in street battles early on will be honored as martyrs, as well they should be. But I also hope that the millions of Egyptians who stood up for democracy and lived to tell the tale are honored at least as much. Tahrir Square is not a place of martyrs, because martyrs are the ones who didn’t get to see the promised land. Nadia and every other Egyptian gets to live in a nation that is free. They’ll vote in free elections soon, and choose their own government, and set their own direction in the world. That is far more worth celebrating than the deaths.

In the US, we had to buy our freedom with blood, with a revolutionary war that cost many lives, and it was brutal and horrific. How wonderful to see that the moral force of millions of Egyptians standing against tyranny is enough to crumble the walls of the most entrenched dictatorship. This is a revolution that could have happened without a single lost life. This doesn’t mean we should forget those who died defending their right to protest, nor that we shouldn’t honor their sacrifice. But I’d rather honor the sacrifices of so many Egyptians who risked their safety, but who overcame the violence and repression through sheer numbers and the protective halo cast by their just cause.

Thank you Nadia, and thank you to all the people of Egypt for letting us all witness this historic moment. Through Twitter, Al Jazeera, liveblogs at the Guardian and the New York Times, and other media, those of us who could not stand with you in person could feel the flow of events, and urge things towards their just and necessary conclusion.

Earlier today, Phil Plait tweeted: “Serious note: will the Egyptians now build a democracy or a theocracy? Or will it be more of the same?” I replied, mangling the original: “As the saying goes, @BadAstronomer, ‘A democracy, if they can keep it’.” I have no doubt that they can and will.

Comments

  1. #1 Gurdur
    February 12, 2011

    Very, very good post, and fully seconded.

  2. #2 Ken
    February 12, 2011

    But, they did have a military coup. The people aren’t free yet…