The Awakening

Posted on November 28, 2012


Enough is enough

Some events are of such magnitude that they tend to elicit a reaction from even the most inert societies.  Think France and its typical moral ambivalence.   Similarly, some events have the tendency to create a level of discomfort that even takes us out of our natural comfort zone of common and basic cultural foundations.  Think Egypt, whose population predominantly identifies with Islam, albeit in a nominal and pluralistic manner.

I’ve noticed a few such pivotal developments that have arisen in the last two weeks following the national elections.  These are situations in which citizens who would ordinarily  be content to voice their discontent quietly and privately, have instead become so aroused by circumstances that simple disagreement is entirely too passive and neutral to abide with.

I point you to them in the  context that we Americans who are alarmed by the threat and onset of tyranny here, must resolve to once again unite and boldly proclaim our defiance.   If the French and the Egyptians are courageous enough to resist despotism, so must we. For are we not the original model on which resistance and rebellion were founded?

First the French.   As you know, France has a newly elected Socialist – Francois Hollande, a politician whose political outlook is mainly analogous to that of Barack Obama.   In fact the similarities between them are striking.   Both resist spending cuts, but embrace stimulus plans. Both insist on maintaining the current welfare system, which in too many cases incentive making a career out of gaming the bureaucracy of social benefits.   Both want to heavily tax investments.   Both support the government disenfranchisement of traditional religious values.  The only distinction without a difference, is that Hollande wears the Socialist brand proudly and Obama bristles at it – in public, anyway.

Next is the Egyptians.   In the wake of the chaos of Arab Spring, they find themselves facing a man who pledged to be a leader and a servant for all in society, but once in power, reverted to the dictatorial behavior of his predecessor.

This is Mohamed Morsi.   His is the classic example of the benevolent tone of a campaign and a candidate projecting an inclusive and benign demeanor and baring his fangs once power is consolidated.   It was not unreasonable to expect such an outcome, given the nature of Morsi’s power base, the Muslim Brotherhood.

A common denominator of the recent unrest in France and Egypt is a fascinating transposition of concerns and anxiety about the role of religion in government.  In France, citizens who perceive the dismantling of social structures centering on the traditional status of the family as proscribed by the Catholic Church and Christianity, are strongly making their opposition felt.

It seems like a reaction that has been long in arriving, but we know that it is nearly impossible to discern the exact moment when something will become so egregious that people will react muscularly.  React they have.  The Agency France Presse reports:

Thousands of Catholics and other opponents of French government plans to legalize gay marriage and same-sex adoption marched in Paris on Sunday, a day after more than 100,000 turned out across France for the cause.  The rally, organised by conservative Catholic group Civitas, was marred by accusations that journalists covering the rally and topless counter-protesters partially dressed as nuns had been roughed up by demonstrators.  The only thing missing was a Fast Food chain endorsing their moral position.

Of particular interest is the character of the rhetoric coming forth.  One doesn’t ordinarily associate the frank nature of such comments as the following, coming from the mouths of Europeans.   Among the banners being held by demonstrators was a large one reading: “France needs children, not homosexuals.”   Indeed.

Or consider the comments of one of the protests organizers, Civitas official Alain Escada.   “Our objective is to wage a real battle to protect the family and child.”  He denounced gay marriage as “a Pandora’s box” that would let others demand extended marriage rights, including polygamists and incestuous persons.   Bertrand de la Buharaye, a pensioner from Dinan in northern France who came to the rally on a Civitas chartered bus, said:  “A child can not flourish normally without a father and a mother.   It’s against nature.”

The Arab Winter

Egypt, for its part,  is experiencing a second ‘Arab Spring’, only this one is breaking out in Winter.   It has become painfully obvious that Mr. Morsi intends to try to recreate the same kind of oppressive Islamic fundamentalist religious dictatorship as is typical of Saudi Arabia and Iran.   Having learned the lessons of history from those and other similarly downtrodden societies in the Middle East and Africa, the Judiciary and the secular segment of society is furiously resisting Morsi and his drive towards authoritarianism.  The Christian Science Monitor reports:

Tens of thousands of Egyptians packed into Cairo‘s Tahrir Square today to protest a move by President Mohamed Morsi to remove most checks on his power.  In other cities, protesters clashed with the president’s supporters, and broke into or set fire to the local headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood or its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, in at least three cities.   The Tahrir demonstrations, the biggest since President Morsi took office, were a powerful rejection of the president’s decision to sideline the judiciary, which had remained nearly the only check on his power.   He already holds both executive and legislative authority.

Typical of the sentiments of the protesters are those of Rabab el Khatib, a doctoral student in economics, in Tahrir.  “This decision is unjust.   It makes Morsi into another dictator.”   She said the large turnout would force Morsi to retract the decision.   “The Muslim Brotherhood must know that they are not the only ones in Egypt,” she says, referring to the Islamist movement Morsi hails from.  “The Egyptian people are much more than the Brotherhood.   We are here, and we are strong, and we will not accept this decision.”

What is most remarkable, is that the protests are gathering the kind of size that was previously only possible to assemble when the secularist elements were in common cause with Islamists including the followers of the Muslim Brotherhood.   These large demonstrations are now strictly composed of opposition to theocratic dictatorship.

My take away from the ironic contrast between these two nations and these two groups of citizens is that the right mix of secular freedoms and preservation of religious values is one of the elements that has been refined to a benchmark standard in our country, over the course of two centuries.   We have a good model – even though it has been collecting a little dust as of late.

These protesters are telling us something.  They are telling us that it is never too late to make a stand, although earlier in the game, when the odds are less overwhelming,  is always less painful.  They are confirming to us that our original instinct with the Tea Party rallies was much more effective, consciousness raising and educational to indifferent citizens and profane politicos alike.

It seems to me that we wanted to believe that our job was done and our points were made.  Recent facts have proven otherwise.  We might want to take a lesson from the French and the Egyptians.

American Winter, anyone?