There were people hurt. There were people killed. But the victims were not the losers in a fight, because…they didn’t fight. They protested. Peacefully. Martin Luther King would have been proud. The successful Egyptian revolution was one of peaceful protest.
I know you’ve seen pictures of bloodied faces and bodies being carried, and tear gas wafting through the scene. But please keep in mind there were millions of people protesting. The “death toll” is around 400 and a significantly large proportion of these were actually outside Cairo where (a) there are far fewer educated people and (b) any kind of meaningful protest means anything at all.
Americans have a difficult time analyzing and gauging political change, because our own system is so befuddled by confusion. Take the health care issue, for example. To me and I hope the vast majority of sane onlookers, this is a baby step towards a society that guarantees the health of all its citizens. But I don’t have to remind you of how many think radically differently.
So we tend to listen to change that is evident and obvious and immediate, and I think we also sort of fear it. We are worried that change will take away or at least restrict the rights we currently enjoy, which are wonderfully substantial. So for the vast millions of Americans who still don’t know who Mubarak is much less Elbaradei or Wael Ghonim, they pay attention only when something of ultimate drama happens: death. That’s what TV is made of.
But the fact is that there were very, very few deaths compared to the demonstrations that took place. This is remarkable. Imagine the hundreds of thousands of unarmed and determined individuals who so believed in human rights that they stood upright against heavily armed security forces. Who were ready to sacrifice their safety for an idea. Fortunately, a ridiculously small proportion had to. In fact, it’s something of a testament to the restraint of the security forces and particularly the army that so few were hurt.
I remember my own days as a youthful protester in the 1960s, unarmed as the Egyptians were, charged by police as the Egyptians were, tear-gassed as the Egyptians were, shot at as the Egyptians were. And our few friends who were hurt and died were unarmed, as the few Egyptians who were hurt and unarmed.
There are literally hundreds of videos like the one above, showing hundreds and thousands of protesters, unarmed, demonstrating against highly armed government forces. But by their sheer numbers and naked sacrifice, they won. They’ve won round one.
In America especially we tend to focus on the violence of any event, for two main reasons: it’s wrong, and it makes good TV. But what every person must take so far from the Egyptian revolution is that given the hundreds of thousands of people involved, the millions ultimately, the amount of violence was unimaginably small.
It’s hard for Americans to imagine a dictator falling with so little violence. We are told our wars are waged against dictators, and the level of violence that follows our policy is legend. The number of our own soldiers killed much less locals in Afghanistan and Iraq to topple that regime numbers in the tens if not hundreds of thousands.
We can’t believe Egypt has changed regimes with fewer deaths in a month than America sustained monthly in Afghanistan and Iraq for years.
But it’s true. Grasp it and embrace it. Only good will come out of this. There will be many skeptics and cynics out there now saying, “Yes, but what will come next?” I’m not so naive as to suggest this revolution is over, completed. But I’m idealistic enough and optimistically hopeful enough to command the axiom that only good can come out of the power of peace.