I’ve been following the events in Egypt with a great deal of interest from the very beginning. Initially I was taking note of the goings on in Tunisia, curious from a social media standpoint since it seemed the government there was hacking into the Facebook accounts of protesters. In fact, the only sites I was reading with coverage of Tunisia were those that specifically deal with social networking, such as All Facebook. When the protests began in Cairo, I found news the same way–through the social media, not news media, sphere.
The first stop was, of course, Twitter. It didn’t take long to find information under #egypt and that led to #jan25. Within a couple of days I was following @Jan25Voices and listening to the extraordinary interviews they were doing from inside an Egypt that had seemingly been cut off from the rest of the world. I also quickly discovered @AJEnglish and the Al Jazeera English live stream. (I hope no one will be offended if I say I personally benefited from the Egyptian protests by discovering some of the best journalism I’ve experienced in years. If you have not visisted Al Jazeera English, I urge you to.)
I was watching live, on Friday, when the situation in Tahrir Square suddenly escalated and the peaceful protests began being disrupted by pro-Mubarak supporters and after that I watched coverage nearly non-stop for days. I’ve been alive for some truly historic events, but this one was particularly compelling. Maybe it was the evident passion of the people that we had the privilege to observe. I only vaguely knew of Hosni Mubarak before January 25–in the way anyone hears the name of a world leader and kind of remembers it. I did not know anything about his rule, his regime, or his relationship to the US until now. Learning about the lives of the Egyptian people led me to support their cause. I watched and listened with tears more than once. I felt the disappointment when Mubarak said he wouldn’t leave and I felt elation when word finally came of his resignation.
I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised by the reaction of some Americans to the Egyptian uprising. They kept pointing out that Mubarak was a “friend” to the US. I understand that governments make agreements with other governments whenever it benefits both parties, regardless of differing ideologies. That’s the way of international politics. But as Americans, we value and uphold democracy–except when we don’t? I don’t like the implication of that. When I see people who are downtrodden fighting for freedom and fighting for a voice, I believe those of us who enjoy those things should support them.
There is no way of predicting the future for the Egyptian people. My hope and prayer is that they have the democratic freedoms they have asked for. I also hope the US can move forward with a new Egypt in a relationship that is even more beneficial for all of us than the old one. For now, maybe it is enough to know that we heard the Egyptians. They spoke with one voice and it resonated around the world.