They are there by the thousands, the children of Egypt, a country with 2/3 of its population under 30 years of age. They have been born and raised entirely in the shadow of Mubarak’s regime. Huge numbers are illiterate and poverty-stricken. What they have developed in the past few weeks is hope, hope for a future without secret police, without tyranny, without fear. Today, they waited for hours in Liberation Square, singing and dancing and chanting, believing that when Mubarak spoke it would be to resign.
When he spoke it was to stunned silence, and then boos and then renewed chanting for him to leave, leave, leave. Mubarak came to power as a war hero, although I am unsure why, as both his wars were losses to the Israelis. He had until today, the support of the army, and the old generals. Today, he gave operational power to his friend, a man who had save his life, perhaps whom he trusted to do his bidding, another military man. The people in the square saw another old man.
Today also, a soldier in the square put down his rifle and joined the people. The rest of the military will have to choose whom to support: the old men in the palace, who rule like kings, or their brothers and cousins and sisters in the square. For the army is young too.
The people have been on the streets for a full week now, facing first the police, who have since run away, and now the soldiers, who have said they will not fire on their own people. Today someone or several someones, nascent leaders perhaps, called for a general strike and millions of people in the street. The government appears to be moving towards a change but still Mubarak clings to power. It’s a half a world away; a storm of protest will be playing out in the Egyptian desert while we are waiting for the winter storm that is coming. We have a decision to make sometime soon as well, about our government, about our elections, but because we are the luckiest nation in the world, here in the frozen north, it will be peaceful, orderly lines at the polling booths, with the most violence coming from puerile attack ads on television.
When we lose our communications, it’s the weather, not a dictatorial government that seeks to keep our thoughts from each other. Tyranny always plays it the same, and always the people will find a way. Remember the underground presses of the French revolution.
From food riots in Algeria, to the fall of the government in Tunisia, to the people in the streets, not just of Egypt, but of Yemen and Jordon as well, the world is a more dangerous place this week. There may be leaders emerging who will take Egypt towards democracy and freedom and away from theocracies and despots, and with it the other countries in the region who have been held down too long.
The people are demanding that Mubarak leave by Friday. It will be a long three days.