30 January 2011

Mubarak or ElBaradei

Isn't it fascinating to see people dressed like characters from a biblical "period movie" holding cell phone cameras over their swathed heads, taking pictures to send to us on the other side of the world? They've brought it all the way from Egypt to our doorstep using their pocket gadgets. You can almost smell the burning building in the New York Times photo below.

I'm glad they are demonstrating, mostly peacefully, and demanding their rights. I hope they survive to enjoy them.

But I would point out one somewhat painful thing that I find concerning.

For the last several days, one of the commonly heard chants in Egypt has been a demand to know which side the United States is on? Which side is the Obama administration, the U.S. State Department, the big back pocket going to back: Hosni Mubarak or the reformers led by Nobel Peace Laureate, former U.N. official Mohamed ElBaradei?

I was gladdened to hear U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on this weekend's Sunday talk shows, answering questions about that very issue: which side does the United States take. Their answer? It's up to the Egyptian people. It's for the people of Egypt to decide for themselves.

I love that answer. It was a huge relief to hear it and to hear both sides sticking to it. Like glue. Here's my other question. Since when are you asking us to take sides? That is a region of the world strongly influenced by a religion (which is their right, too) that has produced some extremely painful events in the last ten years. They are always suggesting that the United States should not intrude on such things. So it surprised me to see them demanding that we pick a side now.

In another 8 months, we'll mark the ten year anniversary of one of the most difficult moments in our nation's history, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. It would be great if Egypt was able to mark that date with free and democratic elections and decide for themselves without concern over what the United States is doing.

We wish you well, whatever choice you and your countrymen and women make.

12 January 2011

Tucson's Humiliation

I've been watching the events play out in Tucson along with the rest of the country. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) being shot, along with more than a dozen other people, has shocked and horrified all of us. It reminds me of other painful times for the United States.
It reminds me of the school shootings in Columbine, CO., when I would get up early to watch the news before going to work, and cry my eyes out with sadness that children were shooting each other. I'm generally considered to be a person accustomed to going to tragedies, but that one really bothered me.

And it reminds me of something I read about Dallas, Texas after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated there. I read that the city felt embarrassed at its part in the death of a U.S. President. They were humiliated at being at the center of the action that so deeply wounded our country.
I see what's going on in Tucson and I think "how embarrassing for Tucson." Arizona has always been one of my favorite states to watch, politically, because they just "call it like they see it." They do what they want, when they want and the way they want, from the border issues to polygamists to how they set their clocks and carry guns. They do what's best for Arizona, whether it works for the rest of the country or not. Call 'em names but don't call 'em late to the party. They get it... they just don't care. You have to sort of respect that type of independence.
For some reason, that thinking of their prominent streak of independence that seems to make me sadder for them now. They collected a little part of the blame in this because of those gun laws and unusual immigration tactics.

To be sure, they have some interesting laws in that Western state, but I grew up in a place with trucks and gun racks and men and women who believed in those individual rights. I don't blame guns; I don't blame politics. I blame someone who was not in his right mind. Maybe he can't be blamed because he's incapable of being responsible. What I do know is that it's wrong to try to use rational thinking to interpret a crazy man's actions.
But I feel for Arizona and Arizonans and, well, all of us right now. We are better than this. And I hope Tucson remembers that in coming days. They didn't deserve this either.

Photo courtesy of NBC Photographer Brian Humphreys who has been busting his tail for NBC Nightly News all week.