I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.
(Jay Gould, American financier, railroad developer—and “gangster,” 1880s)
Where it ends in the cradle of civilization [Egypt] will not be America’s call.
(Timothy Egan, journalist, 2011)
The changing street
While there has been some good American reporting coming out of Egypt, frequently under dangerous conditions, the “main stream” media in this country in general is decidedly second rate and not serious journalism.
And while FOX news is simply embarrassing and largely a collection of ridiculous info-entertainers, the rest is depressingly mediocre. Frank Rich of the NYT, Wallflowers at the Revolution, has gotten it right.
AlJazeera, not carried by the American cable and satellite companies (not surprisingly) has done some superb reporting with in-depth assessment and live streaming. It has been to the Internet where people have found Aljazeera English and have watched what is taking place in the Egyptian street.
Observing the unfolding events in Egypt also says something about America and its history, both recent and distant. Many ordinary Egyptians interviewed in downtown Cairo said that they wanted what the United States fought for over 200 years ago.
On the other hand, the Egyptian government and a corrupt Egyptian elite have demonstrated an American foreign policy that overthrew democratically elected governments throughout the world in the 1950s and has bought and paid for authoritarian regimes ever since.
Congressman Ron Paul has called for an end to all foreign aid. This is hardly a radical idea and has always been popular with Americans, even though our foreign aid budget has never been generous compared with many other countries.
The sad truth is however we have spent an inordinate amount of aid subverting governments, stifling democracy and subsidizing the American armament industry. Ron Paul will get his wish—a mistake—if we can’t seriously overhaul our foreign aid assistance.
America’s teachable moment
Man cannot live by bread alone, but the man who cannot live on bread and water is not fit to live.
(Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, 1880s)
America largely “blew it” after the Civil War ended. Emancipation and equality for all that Lincoln called for was soon overturned by the rot of the Gilded Age. Unfortunately, the beliefs of that age never vanished. The reactionaries in America today are hoping to reintroduce them in the 21st century.
It is an immorality to fight against inequality of condition, which simply correspond with inequality of endowment.
(Roswell D. Hitchcock, Union Theological Seminary, 1870s)
Egypt could have a lot to teach the United States at the present time. At some point the word “enough” has to be taken to heart among those Americans who are not part of the privileged class. The twenty-first century Gilded Age needs to be confronted. It may come down to the street, although one quite different from what we are seeing in Egypt.