Sputnik Over Cairo
By Charles Bivona
It seems absurd to me, all of this American chiming about the Egyptian Revolution. Strike that. Absurd is the wrong sentiment. It seems indicative. It seems like the typical response of my Empire. We feel entitled in these situations. We feel that our opinions really matter. It chokes us up a lot.
Just look at our punditry, for an example. See how they hop. Every elected official from my youth has been popping with opinions and analysis and advice.
“Now, let’s go to Jimmy Carter because he brokered a peace deal between Egypt and Israel in the 1970s and he thinks…”
“I wonder what Bill Clinton has to say?” an American husband asks an American wife. They are watching little news before bed.
“Ooo!” exclaims the wife, finally excited. It’s just that we’re always so tired. “Maybe Obama will let Bill Clinton be President for 30 minutes again!” she continues. “Do you remember that?”
“It was such a nice Christmas present to Bill,” the husband nods and smirks, “and V-Day is just ‘round the bend.”
“Maybe we’ll have a snowy Valentines,” the wife sighs. The husband snores.
Who knows, maybe old Uncle Bill will visit the White House. Maybe President Bill Clinton will once again stand behind the presidential podium and calmly, almost mockingly, reassure us. That would be fun…
“My fellow Americans, you see our money and the Egyptian people deserve to be free. But what you need to understand is, our money and the Egyptian people deserve American Democracy. And our money in Egypt is our money, and that money gives us the power and the right to use our speech—i.e. our money—to influence the outcome in Egypt…and don’t forget about our money…please…”
Which is all bullshit, especially the part about money being speech.
Anyway, clearly I’m no political pundit. I’m just a poet who became a cultural historian by accident. Seriously, I tripped into this life. And from my perspective, the U.S. seems poised to make the same mistake it made in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. Our government is poised to focus more on U.S. financial interests than on the will of Egyptian people—the families on the streets of Cairo. We are poised to be the bad guys on the wrong side of history, again. But we do have a choice.
I’m sure some will call me naïve. Believe me, some already have. But the U.S. could actually choose to stand for its proclaimed principles. Our government could use this Arab revolution to mend some of the bridges that we’ve…um…bombed.
Regarding Egypt, for instance, we could simply remove our Hosni Mubarak puppet, and apologize for our trespasses, profusely. We could be humble. Maybe they will accept our apology.
Regardless of their forgiveness, we could offer Egypt a gift: state-of-the-art election equipment. Facebook and Twitter could raise money to help pay for this. They could call it the “Egyptian Democracy Project,” or something catchier. They could follow the Charity:Water model : 100% of donations go directly to building the Egyptian election system. Wealthier donors can choose to fund the charitable foundation directly.
Think of it. We could start a national movement that would soothe the Egyptian and Arab hatred of the United States. And then, finally, we could do something truly unprecedented. The United States of America could leave Egypt—military and all—and respect the outcome of the national election. We could become true allies of—equal partners with—the new Egyptian, the new Arab Democracy.
We could do that, couldn’t we? We could be that respectful, and honest, and honorable—couldn’t we? I mean, just imagine it. It would be our Sputnik moment.
Dear President Obama:
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