The crisis in Tunisia and full week of growing mass protests in Egypt have gripped the American public – as well they should. The images are compelling, the consequences and potential dominoes still unknown, and the cause is something that America has said it wants – democracy in the Middle East. It is coming about in a way that is perhaps surprising, but how else are the masses to get their voices heard in dictatorial, religiously constrained regions beset by poverty? My readings for one of this week’s classes centered on the often tense dynamic of US Presidential and Congressional foreign policies. Articles from 8 experts all said that foreign affairs are generally an issue of much less concern to Americans, and just from my own experience I’d have to agree.
Yet history is happening right there on the television, 24×7 – Anderson Cooper has arrived and that makes this an official Big Event in the U.S. Anything that furthers civil discourse, understanding of other governments and cultures, reveals the consequences [direct or indirect] of U.S. policies and actions, teaches civics and history, and makes us think outside our own comfort zone is, in my opinion, a good thing.
My hope is that some new interest among the millions watching the drama unfold will develop into a greater, enduring awareness. My concern is that once Mubarek is gone, which I believe is inevitable in the very near term, short attention spans will again turn inward. We as a country have an excellent opportunity to learn and grow from what’s going on, to perhaps better understand what it is really like to live in the challenging conditions of the Middle East. This is not the Islamic student uprising of the late 70s. This is a US-friendly, moderate muslim country struggling with an incredibly difficult internal situation. I hope that more Americans will further open their minds to the bigger world, and bigger problems, that go one outside our borders, but that will affect us politically, economically and morally for perhaps years to come.