By Michael Granger
On February 11, 2011, after the Egyptian Military turned the barrels of their guns away from the protesters in Tahrir Square, Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down as president of Egypt and the world was moved by the restraint shown by the military. It was seen as a gesture of love of country and respect for the Egyptian people and not a ploy to wrest control of the revolution from the intrepid protesters. There was a universal feeling that Egypt had crossed the Rubicon, away from dictatorship and rule by force to that of the people through the rule of law.
Instead, they were changing the figurehead of what essentially remains a military dictatorship. Less than a year later, the junta installed to transition Egypt to the democracy the people were desperate for has broken the promise and has betrayed the trust. Instead, and once again, the cries of the Egyptian people for democracy have been met with brutality.
It must be difficult for a country with such a rich history, reaching back 5000 years, a pioneer in agriculture, architecture, mathematics and even the first known treaty, to shift its paradigm of governing from dictatorship to democracy, away from being ruled by pharaohs, kings and generals, to the rule of the people. It is truly amazing how tone deaf the generals have been to the will of the people. They have betrayed the sacred trust of the revolution and it is doubtful that the current leadership can ever be trusted to be shepherds to take their citizens to a new Egypt. It seems that democracy is not in their DNA.
It is quite disappointing to see Egypt’s military leadership behave this way. How can they possibly ask their people to return to the past and reject the self-evident truths that form the basis for democracy: All men are created equal and are endowed by the creator with certain inalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights, once tasted, leave an unquenchable thirst in the human spirit. This thirst cannot be quenched but is rather increased by dictatorship and despotism.
In the age of its primacy, long before the birth of Christ and preceding the rise of the Greeks and the Romans, Egypt was a center of enlightenment. We all desire to visit the pyramids and to marvel at the great examples of human advancement Egypt showed the world. Dictatorial leadership in the age of democracy is at best a throttle on that kind of progress.
Like any other difficult situation, there is a positive side, however short-term, to the military being in charge. It is that they are the best equipped by experience to manage relationships with allies like the United States and Europe without injecting sectarian politics into the equation. This, however, cannot long prevail over the necessity of bringing Egypt to democracy.
The question now is that given the broken trust, can the various parties work out their differences without bloodshed. Because if the military turns its guns on Egypt’s citizens in a wholesale fashion, the society will forever be scarred. When a government turns its guns on citizens who express legitimate yearnings for democracy, it changes into a totally different animal. It becomes a retched, despotic regime unworthy of governing.
Much of life is about choices and the military junta in Egypt has a choice to make. They must choose between a democratic Egypt and a discredited Egypt.
The Egypt we hope and pray for is the former. The Egypt we dread is the latter.