After two days of concerted attacks by plain-clothes security police and paid goons armed with guns, machetes, whips, batons, and nail-studded maces; after the coordinated attempt of the Mubarak regime to intimidate protestors, to stop news coverage by arresting and roughing up journalists, and to create the appearance of chaos, this:
And not only in Cairo. In every Egyptian city. All calling for Mubarak to step down. Now. And all peaceful.
Courage, it turns out, is infectious: One of the two lead anchors of a government TV station quit to join the protestors, as did the station’s manager, declaring themselves unable to keep up the hypocrisy; the head of the Arab League arrived in Tahrir Square to speak to protestors; even the government turned up in person, when the minister of defense came to ‘review the troops’ and also spoke with protestors, signaling at least a degree of support.
The violence that was designed to keep people away from public protest seems instead to have reinforced their determination. And here, halfway round the world in Seattle, I am amazed and humbled and inordinately grateful for their courage.
I’m aware that however much I’m feeling, it’s a tiny fraction of what the vast majority of Egyptians are feeling, both in Egypt and abroad — a fraction of what all those living under Middle Eastern dictatorships are feeling as they remain glued, as I am, to the live feeds of news organizations such as Al Jazeera and, amazingly, the most powerful and irrepressible news update of all, Twitter feeds — from rights organizations like Human Rights Watch (@hrw), from reporters like Nicolas Kristof (@NickKristof), and from Egyptian activists on the ground (check my RTs at @accidentaltheo for some of them).
I’m riding an emotional roller coaster of empathy and hope, but it’s the people in the squares and streets of Egypt who are, literally, placing their lives on the line.
Would you? Would I? Do we have any idea how much we take for granted what others are willing to die for?
Whatever happens in Egypt in the next few days, watch, follow it closely, spread the news, and be awed — and inspired — by the infectious power of courage.