DEMOCRACY: a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

Sometimes we Americans can be  myopic, especially when it comes to political issues.   We have been raised in a system which teaches us that our way of government is excellent, and that we are fortunate to live in a country where democracy is understood to be the superior way of conducting a nation.  From the time we are little children we are taught the “Pledge of Allegiance” and prepared to recite it daily in our school settings.  Whether we be a little child or an older citizen, our eyes brim up with tears when there is a rendition of  the National Anthem.  We learn about the democratic process from the time of Middle School when we elect our first representative government, a student council,  composed of friends, some of whom have already developed political skills.

Our myopia may be that democracy as we know it is the only form of representative government capable of demonstrating the will and the needs of the people.   For many years the United States has attempted to replicate American Democracy in struggling nations, only to experience disappointment when the finished product doesn’t look like Washington, D.C., or Albany, New York.

The struggles in Egypt and other neighboring Middle Eastern countries include cries for democracy, and you can see the eyes of many Americans begin to glisten, thinking that we are going to see an Egyptian form of government that is exactly like that of the United States.   I doubt it, and I know that I share that doubt with many who have studied the Egyptian political situation far more closely than I.

When the dust clears and the people in the centers of the Egyptian cities have gone back to their homes, I suspect we will see the emergence of a government that is far more democratic than anything the Egyptians have seen or even dreamed about.   But it will be Egyptian, not American.

The culture, religious life, economic understandings, and political needs of the Egyptian people will have an opportunity to be represented by people who have known only the oppressing form of government about which they are shouting in their demonstrations.   The Egyptian economy, its educational system, and its method of sharing powers among people of great diversity will help to shape that governance.  While there is a hope that the new Egyptian government will not be one of radical, fundamentalist Islam, it is clear that the Islamic presence in Egypt will play a large part in shaping their new leadership patterns.  At the same time, the Coptic and other Christian forces in Egypt will want their voices to be heard in the development of the new Egypt.

Turkey has been the model for a Middle Eastern nation with a democratic format.   Its secularism dominates, but is respectful of the religious Muslims who share in the decision-making of the nation.   The unrest in Turkey at the present time is not anti-democratic. To the contrary, the Turkish people have learned to appreciate the principles of democracy and have discovered that democracy does not inhibit the colorful and diverse lifestyle of a primarily-Islamic nation.  It will be well for the people of Egypt to study the Turkish model before establishing the final design of the new Egypt.

It will be important, also, for the people of western democratic nations to put aside our myopic understanding of what democracy looks like.   Support for the new leadership will be important, and the variations on the norm of democracy will need to be celebrated.  Other Middle Eastern nations will be watching.

Definition credit: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/democracy

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