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Egypt Should Be Rapturous; Obama Should Be Ashamed: Thoughts on the Resignation of Hosni Mubarak

2011 February 11

Tahrir Square today, after Mubarak's resignation

After 18 days of protests demanding his immediate resignation, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak finally yielded to the cries of the people and surrendered his power to the military, taking the first meaningful step toward a democratic Egypt.  The brilliance of this triumph of peaceful assembly, democratic spirit, and relentless and indomitable will cannot be overstated.  The Egyptian people—without force or the faintest threat thereof, without foreign intervention, and without one word of premature conciliation—wrested authority from an oppressive regime in order to erect in its place a republic of true civil representation.  That this was done not only in this fashion, but so swiftly (though each day truly felt like a week), is a fact worth the awe and respect of the world.  The only detail that fouls this exultant hour is that, as his resignation clearly demonstrates, Mubarak got the message before President Obama.

The Egyptian people never faltered in their message: Mubarak must leave now.  With this Obama could not stand.  While the people of Egypt gathered daily to demonstrate their intolerance of despotism and tyranny, Obama neglected daily to denounce Mubarak outright and thus obscured his ostensible support for Egyptian democracy.  Without a strict call for Mubarak’s immediate removal, Obama’s message of solidarity was left entirely bereft of meaning or consequence.  Last week, as Mubarak announced that he would not seek reelection in September (a move lamely encouraged by our President), chants of “Leave! Leave! Leave!” could be heard across Tahrir Square, and they lasted not only throughout the night, but through the following ten days.  A gradual transition is not what Egypt wanted and it is not what it needed.  Thankfully, today, due to the persistence of the Egyptian people, it is not what it got.

Even Mubarak, who just yesterday told protesters that he would not resign, caved to the swelling pressure.  How is it that the leader of a nearly 30-year autocracy got the message before the President of the most proudly democratic nation in the world?  I really don’t have an answer.

America should be shamed by this display of cowardice and impotence.  If we cannot stand beside our brothers and sisters as they strive nonviolently to oppose oppression, exploitation, and injustice, for what do we stand at all?  I reconcile myself with the knowledge that, of course, our President’s drivel was not echoed by his country.  To those who spoke up in solidarity with our Egyptian brethren: may you know the wary contentment of seeing righteousness validated.  To those who hesitated—to you, Mr. President: may you know the shame of guarding your rhetoric while watching righteousness pass you by.  Your silence will be forgotten by history.

I hope that President Obama is kept awake tonight by two things: the disgracefulness of his inaction and the celebratory cries from Tahrir Square as Egypt greets its new dawn.

Long live Democracy.  Long live Egypt.

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