Saturday, February 12, 2011

He's gone!

Today was a momentous day in history—Mubarak abdicated his presidency at 6:00 PM, EET.

That was the first thing Andrew told me this morning and I quickly went to Al Jazeera to watch the jubilant celebration in Midan Tahrir. Rachel joined me.

"That's Egypt," she said, "Are the people still angry?"

"No. They're very happy. They're celebrating."

"It looks the same as when they're angry," she pointed out,  "They're lighting fires and yelling."

"They're happy, trust me."

"Why are they happy?"

"President Mubarak stepped down today. That means he isn't the president anymore."

"Why did he step down?"

"Because the people wanted him to. They were so angry with him for taking all their money and treating them poorly."

"Is he their daddy?"

"No. He was only their president, but he had a lot of power and didn't use it well."

"So the people are happy and Egypt is safe again?"

"Yes."

"Now can we go back to Egypt?"

Hopefully one day we will. I know Andrew would have given an arm and a leg to be there today. We've been living there vicariously through the internet; I hardly know what we're going to do with ourselves now that Mubarak has been ousted. I imagine that's how a lot of the long-term protestors in Tahrir Square feel. I'm sure they are relieved to be able to return to their homes in safety and thrilled beyond belief that their eighteen days of nonviolent resistance finally came to fruition. But, to quote Inigo Montoya, it must be "very strange. I have been in the revenge [revolution] business so long, now that it's over, I don't know what to do with the rest of my life."

Of course, the revolution is technically far from over—there is a lot of work still to be done (rebuilding the country, amending the constitution, establishing a government, etc.) and I'm sure the protestors will be doing much of that work. Today, however is a day to celebrate.

For now, the military is in control, with Tantawi acting as the de facto Head of State. I have full confidence, however, that a true democratic government will emerge in Egypt. Their protests were so unified—Christians, Muslims, rich, poor, men, women, children, everybody—that I fail to see how they would allow anything otherwise.

Mubarak's funds in Swiss banks have been frozen. Hopefully his accounts in other countries will also be frozen so that they money he stole from the people of Egypt will be returned in order to refurbish the country's economy. He has something to the tune of 70 billion dollars stashed away, in essence making him the richest man in the world. It is sickening to think he managed to "earn" that much money while the vast majority of Egyptians live in squalor. The minimum wage in Egypt was set in 1984 at  $6.30 per month. In May of 2010 it was raised to be $207 per month, which is much better, but still...that was only for government employees. The average Egyptian earns $55 per month.

Mubarak had it coming.

What is so wonderful was that this was, like in Tunisia, a peaceful protest, for the most part. Approximately 300 people died, but that was mostly due to Mubarak's attempts to turn the revolution bloody. I am amazed at how stoic the people were while facing gunfire and other fear tactics assumed by the government. It's been said a lot on the Twittersphere today, but I don't mind repeating it here.

Perhaps February 11, 2011 can be seen as the counterpart to September 11, 2001. For about a decade Arabs have been the scapegoat of many a conspiracy theory; they've been painted as a war-mongering, blood-thirsty people. That picture is so, so wrong and it's high time the world (I'm looking at you, North America and Europe) recognized that. The Middle East is not some monster to be chained up and repressed. It's a beautiful region, rich in culture and religion, full of people who want nothing more than to live out their lives in peace like the vast majority of people in the world.

Liberty and justice for all, right?

That's what we say in the pledge of allegiance.

Andrew and I have been watching the John Adams HBO Miniseries and I really don't think our founding fathers would be too pleased with how we've been sitting idly by, watching people live without liberty or justice. We should be elated that Egypt is free from that tyrant, Mubarak. We should do everything we can to encourage and facilitate the formation of a just government. We should stomp out the image of a violent, repressed Middle East and replace it with the image of a peaceful, strong Middle East. After all, it's difficult to be friends with someone you're afraid of.

I'm definitely rambling now so I should probably head to bed—I broke out with a fever this afternoon and my throat is on fire; I think I have what Andrew's been battling—today was just too exciting!

Mabrook ya Masr!

4 comments:

  1. Great, great post, Nancy.
    You described very well what my life has been like ever since it all started... I'm rejoicing but I'm a little bit worried now about what will happen next.
    I hope that the image of Arabs will change for good, this time. I hope that people will stop calling them "Islamists". Midan Tahrir should teach a lesson to the Western World.
    Mabrook ya Masr!
    Hope you'll get better now.

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  2. It'll be uphill from here on... there's so much potential (tapped and untapped)... This all really seems too surreal... It's just too dramatic, fast, and "dreamy"... I wouldn't be surprised if I woke up and it was all just a dream.... This is the most dramatic change a nation has witnessed in many, many centuries...

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  3. The people were already at work today, cleaning up the city and setting things in order. So beautiful!

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  4. A beautiful post! I can't wait to see what happens next!

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