Friday, February 4, 2011

Mass Friday Rally In Egypt

I'm watching the live video coverage from Cairo's central Tahrir square as I sit here sipping my first cup of tea, and frankly, my friends, I am in awe. There are hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in the square, some estimates are over a million, with more arriving all the time. The momentum may have been faltering yesterday, but they are back in force today.

The army seems to be keeping the thugs and security forces at bay, while allowing the protesters free access to the square. At any rate, there has been no fighting so far today, and only a few warning shots fired as the army appears to be skirmishing with the forces that attacked the demonstrators yesterday and Wednesday.

As I have said before, the best live coverage is at AJE's YouTube channel. Stop the video at the top of the page, if it auto-starts, and page down once. You'll find a live video channel one page-width down on the right hand side. About half of the commentary is silly or inane, simply because the anchors seem to feel obligated to be talking all the time, and there isn't really that much to say. But such is the nature of the video medium in its commonly-accepted format, I suppose. At least the other half is highly relevant commentary or reporting from people who are actually on the scene.

As I have said before, I am not a Muslim myself, and I feel no particular desire to become one. But the sight of hundreds of thousands of people kneeling to pray together in that huge square, united for the moment by their common belief, was a very powerful one for me personally. Make no mistake, I am highly engaged with this demonstration on a political level, particularly as it reflects so keenly my fervent desires for change in our own country. But this was a different feeling, a stirring of something beyond the political, beyond the logical, beyond anything that really has an accurate description.

And yet, at the conclusion of that prayer, a speaker stood up and declared bluntly, "this is not about religion or ideology", and the crowd cheered him wildly for it. This destroys any attempt to dismiss these protesters as "religious fanatics". These people are united by their religion, but they are not there to protest about or because of religion, they are there to protest about tangible secular issues like corruption, unemployment, food prices, inflation, and...hey, wait a minute, do those problems sound familiar to you?

Having said that the demonstraters are united by their religion, let me add that although Egypt's Coptic community supports the demonstrations, they are doing so separately, being no fools.

In the midst of this generally positive news, there is one chilling note. The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, stated bluntly that the armed forces of the USA are "standing by to support or intervene".

Excuse me?

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