Posts Tagged ‘Revolution’

Letter From New York February 27, 2011

February 27, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

Two days ago my friend Beverly, who receives and reads this missive, sent me an email wondering what I was thinking about Libya. What is happening there is less covered than events in Tunisia and Egypt. The difference: there aren’t that many cameras in Libya and there aren’t that many correspondents reporting out of there.

Gaddafi invited foreign correspondents to Tripoli, the capital, to demonstrate that all was under his control. It apparently backfired as some squares and streets were filled with protestors, demonstrating that all was not well and under the dictator’s control. Correspondents were eager to see things up close, particularly after a telecast from Tripoli of a long, peculiar, rambling rant of Mr. Gaddafi informing his subjects that he was still in control, wasn’t going to leave Libya, wanted to die there as a “martyr” and that all the trouble was being caused because Mr. Obama, our President, was seeing to it that young Libyans were being provided hallucinogenic drugs. I saw some of it and it was mesmerizing in a terrifying way as it demonstrated his dangerously erratic behavior and probable madness.

He is a thug; yesterday I listened on NPR to a heartbreaking report from Tripoli from a man who described the relief he and friends felt when ambulances showed up at the scene of a melee between protesters and security forces and how relief became horror as Gaddafi’s security forces burst from the backs of those ambulances to shoot into the crowd. It is such actions that have resulted in the UN Security Council recommending that Gaddafi and his cronies be referred to the Tribunal for War Crimes while placing sanctions against them, which makes me believe that Gaddafi might feel he is going to have to really embrace that martyr role because there will be no place for him [or his sons] to run.

Reviewing online some of the African press this morning, it is clear there is concern that Libya will have a Ceausescu moment when Gaddafi falls, looking back at the execution of Romania’s dictator and his wife when their communist state collapsed beneath them.

There is a provisional government that has been formed in the east of the country under a former Justice Minister who defected to the rebels a few days ago and which is currently being recognized by the former Libyan Ambassador to the U.N. who also has renounced Gaddafi. The situation is confusing and complex and frightening. Some governments are quickly evacuating their citizens but migrant workers from poorer nations are adrift with their native governments unable or unwilling to assist them. Workers from African nations are gathering in compounds and are being guarded because Libyans are confusing them with African mercenaries brought in by Gaddafi and his boys to subdue them.

It appears that it’s only a matter of time before Libya is freed from the Gaddafi family; it is only a matter of how much blood will be lost in the process. And that is the terrifying reality. Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, the army is split and some of them are firing on the Libyan people though others are defecting and turning on their Colonel.

Much of the news is coming out via Twitter and Facebook because the correspondents are not there in the same force they were in Tunisia and Egypt. And the Tweets and Facebook postings are also showing that unrest remains in much of the Arab world. The Arabian King is offering significant financial assistance to his population to quell their unrest while Yemen’s dictator is under increasing pressure with old allies beginning to abandon him. Bahrain’s monarch is shuffling his cabinet as protests continue. Oman has begun to experience its first protests.

What began two months ago in Tunisia and then swept into Egypt and has now been blown into Libya and Yemen and Bahrain and Oman and Saudi Arabia. We will have to watch closely because the world is shifting before our eyes and the eventual outcomes will undoubtedly shape the geo-politic for years to come, for good or ill.

Letter From New York February 12, 2011

February 13, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

As I wait for my train, I am doing what I have done most of the day today and most days for the last 18 days – keeping up with the tumultuous events in Egypt. For days, everyone in the office has paused as they pass the two big screen televisions to see what was unfolding in Tahrir Square in Cairo, the heart of the revolution which has shaken Mubarak from his perch where has been sitting comfortably for the last thirty years. No one thought this would come but it has, a cascading of events started in Tunisia, a restlessness flooding the Mid-East, challenging the status quo. Two long reigning autocrats have been toppled; serious changes in other countries have also resulted, preemptive measures taken by those in power to enable them to sustain their positions, at least for now.

Like so many I have followed this revolution on television and on the net, wishing in some ways that I was there so that I could feel the beat of the streets, though I know that wouldn’t necessarily be safe. Reporters were roughed up and arrested; a Google executive was detained, one who had organized protests via Facebook. Some died but an amazingly small number it seemed, though there have been reports that the numbers have been minimized.

Like Tunisia, this was a revolution propelled along by Facebook, Twitter and the connectivity of the net and new technologies. In both Tunisia and in Egypt the Army did not turn upon the people, for the most part maintaining order but not firing upon the crowds.

All week I have found myself contemplative. Each and every one of the people in Tahrir Square has a father and a mother, may be brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, living individuals with families and friends swarming together to gain an end, following the siren song of tweets to a destiny they could not clearly determine though they were abundantly clear about what they wanted, and eventually got, Mubarak gone.

I thought of the nameless people who are part of the news, the hundreds of thousands in Tahrir Square, the dozens killed in Pakistan by a teenage boy suicide bomber and the dozen or so that were killed in a Baghdad incident. I woke up more than once this week to the radio announcing the deaths of people in bombings in this place or the other, people I would never know but individuals who had loves and hopes, were loved in return and are now gone in a blinding flash of light and pain. The dispassionate voices that announce the passing of the nameless victims help us not realize these were people like us, who got up in the morning but did not get to go home that night.

I am not sure why all these nameless people have been so much on my mind; is it that if there were an attack on the subway in New York and if that were the way I met my end, I would be one of those nameless victims in some announcer’s report? Or is it that in staring at the images of the massive crowds in Tahrir Square there were moments when the cameras did focus on the face of one person or another and I would find myself wondering what their life was like?

Whatever the reason, I have felt a singularity with my fellow man. I am concerned about what comes next in Egypt, the heart of the Mid-East and a very singular country. There are those who fear this revolution will open the door to radical Islam though that fear did not prevent Egyptian Christian Copts from taking themselves to Tahrir Square to stand with their Egyptian Muslim comrades. Time will tell whether this will evolve into an Islamic Revolution as opposed to an Egyptian Revolution.

But whatever happens, it will have reminded me that I share much with all the other human beings around the world if only that I, too, am a finite creature with hopes and loves caught in the sweep of history being made.