Friday, February 11, 2011

GREAT MOMENTS IN HISTORY (2/11/11)

Things rarely turn out the way we expect, even when they do.

At least that's my experience. But neither life nor whatever happiness we find in it is about results, it's about the process of trying to achieve them, or living with them. If it were otherwise, wealthy people would all be happy and the poor all miserable. The successful would never commit suicide and those who fail at their goals always would. Etc.

Our collective lives work the same way, it seems to me. Great moments in history rarely sustain the feelings of exuberance and fulfillment that come at those moments' peaks, as on this day in Egypt (and outside it) for those who've been yearning for the downfall of Mubarak and his rule for years, for decades.

But for those who can appreciate this moment's overwhelming greatness despite whatever follows, the greatness cannot be denied. Just like when the Berlin Wall fell. The aftermath was more than messy for the newly unified Germany, and the problems that followed the exhilaration of that moment are real and still having an impact, but to deny the greatness of that moment in history because it didn't solve all the problems of a divided country or even a divided world, is to be the kind of petty cynic that occasionally shows up in the comments on this blog, and much more frequently all over the Internet and the media.

It's tiresome, like people who don't get what's so great about The Beatles or a movie like THE FIELD or would deny the high most of this country was on the night Obama won the presidency. They would have us believe that because The Beatles often seemed to employ childlike lightheartedness in attitude and outlook, and in choice of instruments and musical techniques and styles, that they were being either deliberately jejune or naive, (as opposed say to the Stones supposedly more authentically raw techniques and sound, based in the blues but with an even more supposedly sophisticated darkness to their lyrics and attitudes etc.).

But as we know from the facts, Lennon and McCartney had much more to be dark about than Jagger or Richards. But Lennon and McCartney overcame the dark traumas of their past, transcended them to whatever extent any of us can, to create something that uplifted our spirits at the time and can still evoke that same response in many of us to this day (not to mention they were consummate songwriters and musical creators).

And movies like THE FIELD, though technically or politically flawed perhaps, and definitely choosing sentiment over cynicism, can continue to resonate with many viewers even after all these years (or IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE or HANNA AND HER SISTERS or any other film that has a "happy ending" in any way that's still creatively original). And Obama's win and the fact of his presidency can still bring a wave of satisfaction and pride at a just cause personified in his very existence, let alone accomplishments, despite the setbacks and disappointments and compromises and challenges etc.

Today was one of the great moments of history, no matter what follows. The Egyptians who took part in the past few weeks protests, risking their lives and perhaps the lives of their families (since the preferred control mechanism of most tyrants remains threatening and carrying out harm to the families of those who would challenge them), especially those who actually gave their lives in "the ultimate sacrifice" (as so many on the right often say, especially those who have never put their own lives in harm's way), have every right to exult and feel proud and triumphant in this moment.

Because they won. Not everything. Not forever. Not enough to necessarily change even that much in their actual material lives. Ah, but in the lives of their spirits, their souls, it must feel like learning how to fly with only your smile as the means.

On this 2/11, they have reversed, or at least transcended for now, the image of "Arabs" too many of our fellow citizens have had since 9/11. As Obama pointed out in his comments today, they showed that great things could be accomplished, great changes brought about, without the use of violence and terrorism. In fact they are the newest example of so much that Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. achieved through nonviolent means.

And having lived through some dramatic historic changes in my own life and having experienced my own participation in nonviolent and at times violent protest and actions meant to bring about political changes in our racial laws and social practices or to end a war or gain equal rights for women or gays etc., I know that often nonviolence gets beat by violence, that sometimes the army doesn't hold still, as in the recent Iranian protests that failed to accomplish the changes those people were willing to sacrifice their lives for.

But remaining nonviolent, except when directly attacked, and not allowing themselves to be provoked into rioting and rampaging even by the professional provocateurs (i.e. hired thugs or undercover official ones), AND NOT BACKING DOWN, not being intimidated into cowering and giving up in despair and fear and fatalism, but instead convincing by their example even greater numbers to join them, they created and then seized for themselves one of the great moments in history.

I'm so very happy for them, and for all of us, even the cynics who can't appreciate it.  

4 comments:

harryn said...

Amen ...
There is a healing going on ...

JIm said...

Maybe the Bush Doctrine was right, that all men desire freedom and self determmination and the US should work to that end. You rightly identify a euphoria of the moment, but(you knew there had to be a but) the US should work behind the scenes to encourage a secular, law abiding society, not based on shariah law. Revolutions are not unusual in human history. Successful revolutions that establish equality before a law based on human and civil rights is some what rarer. All freedom loving peoples hope for the best outcome for the Egyptian people.

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

Amen. Let us hope for the best.

Tim said...

I'm excited for the Egyptians and their Middle Eastern neighbors. I also hope that the U.S. stays the hell out of this. The whole point of the revolution is for Egyptians to achieve self-determination. The moment the U.S. begins to "help" is the day that the revolution dies. Hopefully the Obama administration has learned that much from the results of the "Bush Doctrine" - the best way for the U.S. to destroy any party or political candidate in Egypt today will be to express support for them.