A day when we’re all Egyptians

You know somewhere along the line many on the progressive end of the political spectrum seemed to forget how to be proud of their country.

I’m not talking about the rather pathetic ersatz pride of those mindless skinheads who once waived the Union Jack and now use the Flag of St George to shore up their low self esteem by wrapping themselves in borrowed glory.

I’m talking about a very real pride in a nation that has come thus far as a democracy.

I’m talking about the nation that enshrined the principle of habeas corpus, whose Barons met at Runnymede to bind an autocratic monarch to the rule of law, that marched behind Wat Tyler to demand an end of the Poll Tax, whose army elected agitators to insist that citizens could only be governed with those citizens’ consent,  whose workers formed the first trade unions, whose women writers were the first to assert that the rights of man were rather the rights of human beings.

Ours is a nation that has through history cherished the right to be different, the right to dissent (though the authorities have often not), the right to liberty and the right to choose our representatives and to dismiss them if it so pleases us.

It grieves me that all too often our governments have been slow to champion the same rights for those in other countries.  It grieves me that progressives have allowed the right to capture our national symbols and empty them of everything that really has made our country one that’s worth being proud of.  We should be fearless about reclaiming those symbols for and revitallising them with with the values of democracy and liberty that represent the best of our traditions just as we should be fearless about seeking to export those values.

So to all those who think our foreign policy towards the Arab world should be driven by the fear of what free Arab people might choose for themselves if they were free to do so then perhaps they’d do well to remember that democracy in its truest form combines both the freedom to make choices and the responsibility that accompanies those choices for their consequences.

A free Arab world will doubtless make plenty of choices we don’t like.  Recognising their choices, such as the Palestinians’ election of a Hamas government, is not the same as approving of them; recognising the legitimacy of a democratic choice binds no country to dealing with the government it results in.

However if free peoples are given unvarnished information on which to base their choices, in the absence of any over-riding injustice or grievance then most, surely, will eventually opt to prosper in peace.  As Tom Paine famously said: “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”  Parents will shoulder all manner of suffering while dreaming of a future where their children don’t have to.

And if you doubt that such sentiments extend to the Islamic world I say watch this:

This is the tail end of an Egyptian TV interview with Wael Ghonim the Google executive who used Facebook and Twitter to help fire up the current democracy protests.

It was broadcast live just hours after he was released after 12 days in detention, much of that time spent blindfold.

If you can watch this democrat cry for all those have who lost their lives in recent days and plead with the parents of the dead to understand and not see yourself reflected in the faces of Egyptian protesters demanding liberties we take for granted…then you don’t simply fail to understand Egypt, you don’t even understand your homeland.


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