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Sands of Change

Like in 1989, or during the French Revolution, or the American Revolution, or the Prague Spring - the events in the Arab world of late - Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen - inspire and trouble at once.  The inspiration is easy to comprehend - what is not admirable about millions of people freely choosing their destiny?  Nothing much else is more moving than that sort of civic movement.

The trembling at the threshold, though, is harder to put a finger on - and has led to some pretty ugly hemming and hawing from the White House, which talks a good talk about Democracy, except when it rears its ugly head.  And, was it Rumsfeld, or Cheney - those awful men - who said that democracy was messy?  Freedom is, despite the cliches, ungainly at the best of times.  It unleashes a Palin as soon as a Clinton.  But we mustn't fear what will happen in the Middle East - because, for better and worse - it will be what the people want.

The masses are - on the whole - the best idiot we have - they are us - and, though we might want to be saved from our selves, the West cannot now pretend to try and save Egyptians from their own decisions.  America shed blood over slavery and had a Lincoln.  Let history work its terrible magic.  Things could hardly be worse.  A whiff of spring in the sandy street cannot be all bad.

Comments

Kiss My Art said…
Dear Todd

My step-daughter Kate lives in Hammamet with her Tunisian husband and children. She was on the ITV news a fortnight ago describing the unfolding events for a British audience. We have a vested interest in things working out there as otherwise the whole family will have to come and live with us!

Best wishes from Simon
Their is much intemperate criticism of Barack Obama for not immediately calling on Hosni Mobarek to resign, immediately. How unseemly that gesture would have been, especially to other allies (yes, good, bad and ugly allies) in the world. Instead, he has carefully calibrated his responses to be just behind the events and the people. Since you mention Lincoln, he too calibrated his response to slavery, not issuing the Emancipation Proclamation until nearly three years into the Civil War, and then only in those areas under active rebellion. He too was excoriated by abolitionists for not doing enough and too late. Leadership is what Gandhi once said, 'There go my people. I must follow them.'

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