Monday, January 31, 2011

Fragments of a Revolution

I spent hours this weekend glued to the set, watching the Egyptian uprising. For some reason I drift back to memories of a rotten tooth that I once allowed to fester too long. Then one day the pain came, and the required root canal brought more misery.

No one knows that's going to happen tonight or tomorrow in Egypt, but it's clear that the nation's old order is crumbling. What will arise if President Mubarak falls, bringing down three decades of authoritarian rule? It's anyone's guess.

Some fragments of the first few days:

Protestors climb aboard tanks, greeting soldiers with hugs and cheers. Egyptians generally fear the police, but they respect the military.

Vandals storm the nation's Antiquities Museum and, inexplicably, rip the heads off of two mummies [Egyptologists over here are panicking].

Mubarak calls on fighter planes to fly low over crowds, warning them that he won't hold his troops off much longer.

Tourists shoot footage of a crowd marching across Cairo Bridge. The scene shows riot police launching teargas grenades at protestors - who simply lob them back.

The beleaguered president offers a sop to his people by picking a vice president - a first. Supposedly this fellow is hated just about as much as Mubarak. Footage shows the man saluting awkwardly before shaking the president's hand.

CNN anchors breathlessly report tweets: doctors needed at a mosque, looters spotted on motorcycles, the president's party headquarters is in flames. We're told that this is a social networking revolution.

Around here most folks seem unperturbed by the unfolding events. But Egypt controls the Suez Canal, a strategic pathway for oil and other goods. With the U.S. economy teetering on the edge of an abyss, these days may be long remembered as a turning point.

Read More: For a vivid account of the Egyptian uprising, check out Kareem Fahim's Egyptian Hopes Converged in Fight for Cairo Bridge (New York Times)

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