Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Long Road to Democracy

Three weeks ago, this corner had every flag other than that of Egypt
I’m back at the office, thankfully, because I can’t take another day feeling like a prisoner in my own home. And the talk among colleagues: a democratic Egypt with free and fair elections.

Sigh.

I could yell until I’m blue in the face, but it wouldn’t do any good. Many Egyptians just don’t seem to understand the long road to democracy. For most, democracy is represented by the US. Egyptians will be the first to make fun of the US’ “newness” saying that there isn’t much of a history. Compared to an ancient civilization, they’re right. However, they still fail to recognize the amount of time it took for America to reach the point it is now.

1776 – The 13 original colonies of the US declared independence, we are now comprised of 50 states with the District of Columbia (Washington DC) and seven US territories and outlying areas.

1789 – The Constitution became the basis of the US federal government, but power struggles continued.

1812 – Second war for independence.

1861 – The onset of the American Civil War, lasting until 1865, that had 11 southern states trying to secede from the North.

There are other things that I will add briefly to make my point. Even with the Declaration of Independence, the constitution is continuously amended in order to change and evolve with the time and modern needs.

So back to Egypt and office talk, everyone is getting geared for the elections scheduled to take place in a few months. Everyone is excited because after all, these 12-day demonstrations will surely equal free and fair, transparent elections, right? I could go over how voting has changed in the US over the years beginning with one of the first changes in 1812 (property qualifications) to the most recent (1986) allowing those of us located overseas to still participate in elections. I could also give examples of discrepancies in our voting proceedings (2008 Presidential Election, Florida anyone?). Not to mention all the fights for equality that took place over several years, and still remain a constant struggle.

Point: democracy doesn’t happen overnight. So Egypt, get ready to put in many years of long, hard work in order to make your dreams a reality. Prepare for more economic strife and political battlefields, but whatever you do, please don’t give up. That being said, please realize Egypt what you're doing by continuing the protests in Tahrir every Tuesday and Friday is hurting your economy and potential path to democracy even more. Change isn't all about protests. As my friend Elaine says, "Democracy must evolve, it cannot be granted or forced."

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