From Egypt, a reminder for all Americans

As this issue of City Times goes to press, Egypt’s embattled Hosni Mubarak has just relinquished his presidency after weeks of peaceful protests in which hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets to demand change.

A key driver of the people’s anger seems to be income inequality, as a small pocket of Egyptian society is fabulously wealthy, while most people struggle day to day. Protesters have also complained about widespread unemployment and ever-higher prices for food and other basic necessities.

These pressures inspired Egyptians to risk their personal safety by demanding the ouster of the 82-year-old Mubarak, who ruled the country for three decades. Over the years, Mubarak stayed in power by relying on standard dictator techniques such as detention, torture, and murder, not to mention foreign aid from the United States. But suddenly he lost his grip.

A diverse array of Egyptian activists – communists, Muslims, doctors, lawyers, even a Google executive – united in opposition to Mubarak. They recognized that the first step in addressing the concerns of the people is establishing a government run by the people, not by a dictator. They risked their lives to bring this change to their country.

The plight of these activists highlights how good we’ve got it in the United States.

Sure, unemployment is a major problem here, the cost of living isn’t getting any lower, and according to the CIA’s most recent figures, income inequality is actually higher in the U.S. than in Egypt. And our nation’s government certainly has its flaws. The political system, for example, often seems driven more by money than by what’s right.

But our country operates under the rule of law. So when Americans are unhappy with our government, we can do something about it without risking our necks in the process. We can voice our complaints in public. We can join an existing movement or organize a new one. We can safely take a wide range of steps to work for change.

The New York Times recently asked a leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Youth how he would feel if Egypt became a democracy and then elected a Christian woman as president. “If it is a government of institutions,” the young activist said, “I don’t care if the president is a monkey.”

In the United States, we’ve already got our government of institutions. If we Americans want change, we don’t have to put our personal safety at risk. All we have to do is get involved.

What do you got going on later?

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From Egypt, a reminder for all Americans