An open letter to the people of Egypt
Your historic vote on a reformed Constitution is a wonder to behold, and we, the people of America, welcome you to a democratic future. Democracy is a beautiful, if sometimes messy, form of government that can give you many of the rights and freedoms that you protested — and in some cases, died — for. But only if you are vigilant. With that in mind, I hope you would accept some advice from an American friend.
1) Vote early and vote often. In established democracies such as the United States, only 37% of registered voters ever came out to the polls. In our democracy, some citizens exhibit a sense of complacency or perhaps inability to change a broken system. Others feel that voting is not worthwhile or interferes with their life. Yet more do not bother to ever register, essentially ensuring that the system remains broken. You, my Egyptian friends, have turned out in massive numbers — with lines stretching blocks — to vote on your new Constitution. Never give up that enthusiasm. As long as you have a democracy that ensures one person, one vote, then you can prevent some of the ills that are occurring in the United States today.
2) Remain unified. There are those within your elite, within your business community and within your political ranks who would like to turn you against each other in order to further their agenda (whatever it may be). For instance, many new governors in the United States have vowed to break up public employee unions, selling such measures as “protecting the middle class,” while completely ignoring the fact that these public employees ARE middle class. They work hard, have college degrees, provide important services and pay taxes. Yet at the same time, these same governors give tax breaks to the wealthy and to corporations, usually to the same amount that would be ‘saved’ by cutting benefits and collective bargaining rights of public employees.
They are able to get away with this because they pit the middle class against each other. You see, private employer jobs have long since lost most of the benefits that public employment jobs enjoy, largely because unions have lost the right to collectively bargain with (or do not exist in) the private sector. So to some employees who suffer from a kind of Stockholm Syndrome of the workplace, the idea that some other middle class person would have the benefits they’ve lost evokes anger, envy and hatred. So the governors are able to get away with their agenda.
3) Keep your faith in the power of collective action. Remember, there are only a few of them and millions of you. Your protests in Tahrir Square emboldened the people of Wisconsin to fight their governor, empowered the people of Michigan to rebuff their governor and inspired people in Ohio, Indiana and other states to take to the streets in protest. If you are quiet, complacent and (as Glenn Beck put it) “stable,” corrupt officials and dirty politicians can have their way. If, on the other hand, you retain the peaceful, non-violent power of popular solidarity you can change the world in ways that amaze and awe. Every Egyptian should march every Friday — your government needs it. Men and women of Egypt, march together — your society needs it. Christian and Muslim, march together — the world needs it.
4) Finally, remember that while you may disagree with each other, there are no ‘enemies’ within Egypt, merely opponents. Just like when Zamalek and Ahly take to the field, there are no “good guys’ and no ‘bad guys’ when you all take to the airwaves, the opinion pages and the radio for political discourse. Believe in the patriotism of your fellow Egyptians unless they unequivocally prove otherwise.
It is through political polarization that Americans began to perceive those on the opposite side as ‘enemies,’ and it is this war-like mentality which prevents real, meaningful dialogue. In our country, corporations are able to make massive profits, keep average wages flat and give each other outrageous bonuses because of this polarization — some voters are convinced that regulations or attempts to prevent multi-million dollar bonuses at banks are ‘socialism’ and so call those who want to ensure fairness and balance in society “enemies” or “socialists.” The corporate-government relationship in Egypt is already in place and could continue under the new Constitution. Don’t let it happen! Remember that your fellow Egyptian is not your enemy just because they disagree on political or religious or economic issues.
In closing, I hope that the people of Egypt are finally able to secure the dignity and freedoms they so richly deserve. I fervently hope, as well, that you heed the warnings of an older Democracy and maintain the ‘demos cratia’ — power of the people — and don’t turn your country into a plutocracy or corporate stooge as we’ve done.
إن شاء الله ، ستكون مصر مجانا إلى الأبد