No sane person would come to a state beach on the Fourth of July without expecting crowds and noise. I am no exception, but the family sitting closest to me seems to yell everything where only speaking is necessary.
Loud people drive me crazy. Loud jabbering is an intrusion on whatever whack-jobbery is bouncing around in my skull. I will, shortly, plug my ears and listen to my iPod and that will make them go away. But, fck, it’s nine a.m. , at this hour I should be able to get some quiet.
They’re almost all overweight – the mom is in her polka dot one-piece with a “little” frilly black skirt at the bottom. The two young boys, maybe seven or eight and sporting 1950s flat top hair cuts (one has a red stripe down the middle), have that blubbery flab that leaks over bathing suits, a jiggling layer they are too young to carry. They are cursed by parental neglect in the diet department to a lifetime of obesity. Only the teenage niece is thin (at least I think she’s the niece.) She’s actually attractive, but one look at the rest of the family should be a “buyer beware” sign for her prospective boyfriends.
As I say, they are loud. Little Flat Top One lies on the blanket, eating cookies from a bag. Over the course of the day it becomes clear that whenever LFT One wants something he tilts his head back and shrieks – and polka-dot-suit mom gives him whatever he wants.
She is smoking, as is Regular-size Niece. Mom has a really classy tattoo, etched permanently between her well-insulated shoulder blades, of a heart with wings on either side. A medical student, analyzing her corpus, would conclude there is no “small of the back”.
It’s not just them. I’m looking at the eight or nine closest parties and all but one couple are overweight. Shoot, I could use a few days at the gym myself. One couple has brought a Chihuahua which will certainly urinate and defecate on the sand where others walk in bare feet. Regular-size Niece wades into the water with a cigarette in one hand, holding the hand of LFT Two in the other.
We, this less than perfect gaggle of Americans, are commemorating the birth of our nation, some 237 year ago. As we do this hundreds of thousands of Egyptians stomp around the streets of Cairo either celebrating or cursing the overthrow of now ex-President Mohammed Morsi and his neo-jihadist supporters.
This second (is it now annual?) Egyptian revolution is remarkable. The government was bounced by the military, but the generals were responding to what was going on in the streets. There is no reason to believe that the military was just taking advantage of an opportunity – little more than a year ago they did the same thing and allowed elections. We can, at least for today, give them credit for acting as the armed forces do in Turkey – as guarantors of an open, secular society.
The fate of most popular movements is that the best-organized of the cooperating groups take control and, unfortunately, they are usually the biggest bastards. There are plenty of examples in history, like Stalinists taking control of the Loyalist cause in the Spanish Civil War (consigning the Republic to defeat by doing things like shooting their allies) or the lunatic Khomeini taking control of Iran in the late 1970s.*
In Egypt 2 1/2 years ago the Muslim Brotherhood used their well-developed network to win a more-or-less free election. But — no surprise — Morsi and his fellows honored their new democratic system by attempting to create an “Islamic state”. All we can go by is history, and history shows such states wind up with bad things happening, things like acid being thrown in little girls’ faces for the crime of going to school and the chopping off people’s limbs as punishment. These are the kind of places that should not exist, anywhere, in the twenty-first century, A.D.
It is a welcome new phenomenon for the masses in a Muslim country to stand up and defeat the jihadists. In Pakistan, a country that had been known for its more-or-less moderate population, the majority has been cowed by violence and promises-of-damnation. This change was nourished by the American invasion of Afghanistan and our pursuit of Taliban/al Qaeda types. Whether or not our actions were warranted, and there is a strong argument for them, only a fool would fail to understand that doing things like occupying their neighboring “religious” country and violating their air space would sour Pakistanis on the U.S. In Iran there were protests by the educated and western-gazing people after Ahmadinejad stole the presidential election four years ago – but the effort faded under a rain of beatings and arrests, as they tend to do.
[Outcomes of the chaos in Libya and Syria are yet to be known. In Syria, at least, the early signs are not good. What had been a revolution against a dictator has changed into an all-too-familiar ethnic/religious war. At least some anti-government members of President Assad’s Alawite minority have switched to supporting him, mainly because the opposition is dominated by Sunnis and has set about persecuting and murdering Alawites on the assumption they are pro-Assad.]
As Egypt erupts, the U.S. dithers, frozen by a law that says we can’t give countries billions of dollars in aid if their governments are pulled from power via coup. Mohammed Morsi was elected and was overthrown by generals. We know that. But laws rules that have any purpose must mean something beyond the literal reading of them on a sheet of paper — and the Muslim Brotherhood are enemies of democracy (at least based on the behavior of like-minded jihadists in other places where they’ve had the chance). The difference between “coup” and “revolution” is always determined by the winner. Do we really want to nitpick about definitions when the choice about who to support is clear?
The Declaration of Independence, which I am celebrating in a lounge chair by the ocean, states that governments derive their “just powers from the consent of the governed” and when “a long train of abuses and usurpations…evinces a design to reduce them to absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…”
Last year the people of Egypt did not think they were voting for authoritarian theocracy. They voted for liberation from the tyranny and structure of the Mubarek regime.
That a jihadist uses democracy to eliminate freedoms is contrary to what our founders wrought from our own revolt – a victory celebrated today in the U.S. both by the beautiful and affluent and by the obese and benighted. The argument is simple: the people of Egypt live on a big beach, and they should be able to enjoy it without being covered by burkas.
* In his memoir, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens wrote “At the moment when Iran stood at the threshold of modernity, a black-winged ghoul came flapping back from exile on a French jet and imposed a version of his own dark and heavy uniform on a people too long used to being bullied and ordered around, For the female population of the country, at least, the new bondage was heavier than the old. And for my friends on the Iranian and Kurdish Left it became an argument as to which model of repression and imprisonment and torture was the harshest.”