A Letter to Young Egyptian Protesters, From a Veteran U.S. Activist
I hope that somehow, through the vast network we call social media, this gets to you in Tahrir Square, even on this momentous Friday.
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You have changed the world. And what you have done has just begun. But now that you have won the hearts of the world, and signaled what your generation intends to do about democracy, the voices of the establishments, in both your country and mine, wish you would declare victory, go home, and let them work out the details of "transition." Please don't do that. The leadership of both our countries have preferred "stability" to "democracy" for a very long time, and they do whatever is necessary to protect the former, even at the cost of the latter. To let them manage how democracy will come to Egypt is to risk it not coming at all, or only on their terms.
Remember, the United States was not talking about democracy in Egypt, not advocating it, not saying a transition is necessary and urgent, UNTIL you risked your security, safety, and lives for the sake of democracy. You changed the conversation, and the conversation would be the same as it has been for decades if you hadn't done what you did. Your generational peers are now watching what you are doing in countries across the Arab world, and beyond. This is the moment for you and for us. Don't turn the "transition" to democracy over to the managers, who have avoided democracy for the sake of their stability for a long time now.
You represent a new generation, a new leadership, and a new hope for the possibility of real democracy. Keep leading. My government, which still calls itself the beacon of freedom, has sacrificed democracy in your region of the world (and many other places) for American "interests." And our foreign policy around the globe has put our interests before our principles. But they are not really the interests of the American people, but of oil companies, big banks and corporations, and rich and powerful people. Their interest in stability is very different from ours in democracy. So don't be fooled, don't listen to the so-called "wise" voices that have been part of the old reality, and want to now thank you for your service to democracy, but are offering to take it from here.
Don't let them. Keep demanding democracy -- real democracy. Because, for the rest of us, democracy is the best defense of our "interests," and the best path to genuine "stability." And, for our part, we will do our best to stand with you. That will likely take sacrifice from all of us, because real change always does.
Thank you and God bless you,
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis. +Click here to get email updates from Jim Wallis