I haven’t written in a while, mostly because the world this year started out as un-funny and now has moved to downright scary and sad. I also joined Twitter, a thing I swore I’d never do, since until Tunisia, Twitter was just a mindless social network of people being self indulgent. Egypt, not Tunisia, changed that for me. I’ve been writing political satire and commentary for nine years more or less, but for the first time, I had a way to listen to what the citizens of the Middle East were saying…their thoughts, hopes and beliefs…unfiltered by the BBC, NPR, CNN, CBC or any other government and/or news agency (which is a redundant statement, I know). Plus, it’s real time- amazing to hear people calling others to gather at this place or that and whether or not they’re getting shot at while they’re doing it. Anyway, if you’re on Twitter, these are some of the people you should be following:
@Tomgara- A funny, intelligent guy who’s been in the middle of it in (I’m assuming) Egypt since the uprising began. I look for his tweets first. I’d like to hang out with this guy one day.
@Salmasaid- Another great source of on the spot viewpoints and a strong supporter of women’s rights in the new Middle East. Her tweet tag says it al- “I’m nobody’s little weasel”
@Monaelthahawy- A “columnist and speaker on Arab and Muslim issues” who seems to be everywhere and anywhere in the world at any given moment. She lists her location as “The World” and that seems about right.
@Syrian Tami- She’s based in the UK, a cynical, “pacifist rebel” who, if I read her posts correctly, isn’t all that impressed with God and religion and believes as I do do that ‘secularism’ is really the only road to peace. She uses Twitters limited character requirements to cut to chase beautifully.
@Sandmonkey (Mahmoud Salem) Another guy on the street in Egypt. Good for ‘real time’ tweets.
@sarrahworld Another Egyptian, her bio ends with “if I were you, I’d worry”. More interesting thoughts.
These are just a half dozen of the people I’m following, trying to get a sense of what’s actually going on, in real time, in Egypt in particular and the Middle East in general. They don’t mention America much; after all, they’re rightly far more concerned with their own countries and the new, boundless opportunities the uprisings and revolutions hold for them. But whether they hate America or not, they seem as a group young, intelligent, nice, politically aware and determined to not get snowed into letting mere changes in leadership or amended constitutions distract them from their real goal- complete and true democratic change, equal rights for women in Arab countries and a new, modern Middle East.
I don’t doubt that more than a few of the are bitterly disappointed with America and it’s support of the dictatorships that have oppressed them for decades. And I don’t doubt that some of these new nations won’t end up being friendly with America, but so what? America is supposed to support democracy; no one ever said that every democratic nation has to support America.
My big problem is that as an American, I can’t get a handle on what these guys want and need from us as a country. Of course, I want them to be our allies- after listening to them I find I agree with them as people…their dreams and ideals. I’m worried that their struggle will get hijacked by Fundamentalist religious sects. If they trusted America enough to accept our help, I would be willing to scream at every member of my government to give them what they need to help them in their struggle, cause if we don’t, then we will have made enemies of these people in the end. I don’t want that to happen.
We’ve let the mistakes America has been making in the Middle East go on for far too many decades- George Bush was just the most egregious example of a long standing foreign policy regarding the Middle East, but certainly not the beginning of it. And all the mistakes were caused by our desire for Middle East oil. We supported dictators, Emirs and Shahs because we wanted gas for our Hummers and SUVs. We were told, if they’re Arabs, they’re terrorists and we need these dictators, Emirs and Shahs to keep them in line.
Well, the time has come to listen to what the citizens of these countries want and believe.
The time has come to support their desire for freedom. The time has come (if it’s not too late already) to mend fences, admit our mistakes and try to develop a working relationship with this new Middle East. I urge everybody to un-follow Charlie Sheen and Perez Hilton and listen instead to the voices of the people in Egypt, Libya and the rest of the Middle East. They are, I’ve found, quite a bit like us. It’s time America learned from them about themselves, their beliefs and dreams, and in their own words.