Middle Eastern upheaval and the promise of American life

Rochelle Gurstein in The New Republic:

New%20Image_21 When the inspiring images of hundreds of thousands of Egyptian men and women demanding their freedom at enormous personal risk first appeared and everybody was talking about whether that revolution would spark similar revolutions in nearby countries, I found myself saying to friends, “What about here? Maybe the example of their courageous actions will shake the American people out of their long apathetic stupor.” Inevitably I was met with laughter. Sometimes I felt a friend's laughter was conspiratorial—the exhilaration of imagining together that things could be different from what they are. Other times, I knew it was a response to what a friend found absurd, ridiculous, in my proposition. “We already had our revolution in 1776. Sure, things are bad, people are out of work, but we're not living in a police state like Egypt. I don't see you out on the street.” And then there were the times when the laughter sounded nervous, a friend made uncomfortable by such talk, insisting that it couldn't happen here. I reminded these skeptical/cynical/realist friends (take your pick) that no one imagined that revolutions could happen in Tunisia or in Egypt and certainly not through the highly disciplined tactics of non-violent resistance. Or that the Soviet Union would collapse or that the Berlin Wall would be dismantled.

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