It’s awesome to see people rise against their oppressors, more awesome to see them succeed, as Egyptians have done today. Though since this is far from over, I expect to continue to hear a lot of talk about what Americans’ role, or the role of our government, should be.
Other than being aware of what the people there are doing and cheering them on, I think the best thing any American, or American politician, or group of Americans who aren’t of Egyptian descent could do for people in Egypt and the cause of freedom generally is this:
Mind our own damn business.
Because the business of the American people has long been neglected. Sure, we can pull together a great candlelight vigil for other people, in other countries, or march on their embassies. We can weep for forests and environments destroyed on continents we will probably never visit. All good. All fine steps towards broadening our empathy and expanding our compassion. But mostly, we’re leaving our power on the table when our first concerns are the problems of other countries.
We, US citizens, vote here. We pay taxes here. We live here. There is no country on the planet over whose policies we can have more influence as private citizens than ours. There is also no other country on the planet more broadly influential or more generally impervious to outside pressure.
Want to advance the cause of freedom? Advance it here, for our fellow citizens. Set an example.
In 2009, the 74 top income earners in America made as much as the 19 million lowest paid workers. That is our business.
The US’ poorest residents, and its most historically disadvantaged residents, are forced to live next to our worst polluters and bear the largest share of health and early mortality costs from our fuel and chemical habits. Which is our business.
The mortgage and investment banking industries destroyed our economy by committing epic fraud. Instead of being sent to jail, they were appointed to run the *ing Treasury department and the Federal *ing Reserve. This is our business.
The US government trained Mubarak’s torturers, and torturers for vile regimes all over the world. The US government used that network of torturers, in acts of extraordinary rendition, to brutalize people who were never charged with any crime. The US government tortured people in Iraq, and still in Guantanamo, and still in our domestic prisons, and with high voltage Tasers in broad daylight on our own *ing streets, sometimes to the point of death. That, goddamnit, is Our. Motherf*cking. Business.
Among other things.
You may recall that the Egyptian rallies were inspired in part by the Tunisian rallies. The Egyptians aren’t holding solidarity rallies for the Tunisians. The British aren’t holding solidarity rallies for either of them, they’re demanding that their own corporate crooks pay up.
If we, Americans, would rattle the bars of our own cages, if we would insist that our freeloading billionaires start paying for the fine business climate, security protections, roads and educated workers they enjoy here, I think that would help the people of Egypt. If we, Americans, would stand to protect each other’s interests so that the wealthy couldn’t pay us enough to turn us against each other, I think that would help the people of Egypt. If we, Americans, would sharply limit our country’s exports of both pollution and Mephistophelean misanthropes high as kites on their own unspeakable power, I think that would help the people of Egypt.
That would put fear in the heart of every dictator and plutocrat in the world. That would tell people everywhere who long to be free that, yes, we are with you, we get it. We’re in this sh*t together and sweet Jeebus, we want out, too.
Anyway, if there’s anything we can do to help, I think that would be it. Because sure as anything, no one wants us to ride to their rescue on a desert camo armored personnel carrier wrapped in a fugue of righteous helpfulness.