The news out of Egypt is grim, painful. I trust very little of what I read or hear reported. I know I don't know what is going on. But in this moment of bloodshed, military violence and apparent religious and social polarization in that country, I remember something suggested by the editors of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) over a month ago:
Democratic social revolution as a series of struggles, a long process … I'd say the idea is almost "un-American." In this country, we are raised on a fantasy of a single "revolutionary" moment in 1776 that led to the establishment for all time of a perfect system of government that has endured without much trouble ever since.
This is nonsense of course.
Most obviously, U.S. society and governance was shaped by a brutal civil war to end slavery. This war extended citizenship to all males born here -- and killed some 750,000 combatants -- out of a total population of some 32 million. It too was part of our revolution.
The successive struggles of the excluded -- men without property, religious dissenters, women, people of color, gays -- for full citizenship have left less obtrusive death tolls, though they've cost plenty of lives. We've made a lot of progress.
And those struggles aren't over. There are forces that are doing their damnedest to shove most everyone but rich white men out of political participation. (See my friend Bob Wing's current summary.) This country's "revolution" isn't complete -- it isn't even over.
Neither is Egypt's.