Monday, February 21, 2011

Upheaval In North Africa

The sweep of history is such that it is almost imperceptible living inside it. We need to step back to lift the blur and step way back to bring it into full focus.

The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt can be seen as part of the same movement that led to the American and French revolution. We got Washington and Jefferson, the French landed Robespierre and Napoleon. Ironically our Revolutionary War succeeded, in large part, due to French assistance. We benefited from the century-old conflict then being played out by Hanover George and Bourbon Louis.

Revolutions create vacuums and we know how nature feels about them. Our founders were at the ready to bind the colonies into a nation in an experiment born of the Enlightenment. It didn't happen overnight however. The separate states resisted for years, to move from a loose confederation to a federal constitutional government.

Today's reports out of the Middle East talk about new democracies emerging after years of dictatorship, oligarchy or monarchy. That word Democracy gave me some pause. The term would have made our early patriots tremble because democracy meant majority rule with no safeguards for the minority. And many of the early colonists were those very minorities who fled European tyranny.

Remember the pledge of allegiance we recited in elementary school? ....... and to the republic for which it stands....... I can recall mumbling those big words, and to the republic for Richard Stands... I had no idea what I was pledging or even what allegiance meant or indivisible It is worth looking back at that word republic which is a representational government that guarantees the Bill of Rights for all including the few.

The French traded a monarch for an emperor but Europe convulsed and again in mid-century when workers took to the barricades in Italy, France and Germany ultimately leading to fuller suffrage and the formation of Republics.

These words Democracy and Republic do not translate well into the Democratic and Republican parties. The rights of the under-served minorities have long been defended by the Democrats.

We don't hear the word Republic very much in current usage. It seems that Democracy has come to mean self-determination as applied to the regime changes underway in the developing world. As they move toward modernity I would hope that the emerging governments extend protection to dissenters and support inclusion for all citizens. The sound and fury I'm witnessing in North Africa does not look or sound like a people settling for anything less than a non-theocratic participatory government.

1 comment:

  1. "Richard" would know my special childhood lyrics to God Bless America:
    "Stand beside her, and guide her, through the night with a light from a bulb."