Thursday, October 27, 2011

Asmaa Mahfouz: Democracy's Heroine

October 27, 2011, 5:40 p.m.

[Photo credit: "Moral Heroes"]
"Fear of the government, fear of kidnapping, fear of harassment and abuse. These fears had kept the [Egyptian] regime in power for three decades. . . . This all changed on January 18th, 2011 when Asmaa Mahfouz decided to face her fears and ask others to join her in protest. She posted a video of herself online . . . calling on others to join her at a protest in Tahrir Square on January 25." Moral Heroes. [more]
The rest, as they say, is history.

Amy Goodman's powerful and moving juxtaposition of that famous January 18 video with her own interview of 26-year-old Asmaa Mahfouz at the site of Occupy Wall Street, provided more than just a gentle reminder of this remarkable young woman's role in the news at the beginning of this year. It caused me to see her, what she did (and continues to do), what she stands for and represents, in a very much brighter, multi-faceted and awesome light.

Do watch this excerpt from Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now," of October 25, 2011. It runs from 12:00 minutes in, to 25:46:

From Tahrir to Wall Street: Egyptian Revolutionary Asmaa Mahfouz Speaks at Occupy Wall Street

(Actually, the cut begins 15 seconds before 12:00, with news from Occupy Oakland. And I apologize for not providing an embed here but, unlike YouTube (where the New York interview is not yet posted) it was not immediately clear how to embed the segment from Democracy Now into Blogger, other than the link it does provide for Blogger, above.)

The two videos that Amy Goodman has combined spark so many thoughts:

- This powerful, additional illustration of the insight I came to at least 35 years ago that I call "the natural superiority of women" (something Mahfouz demonstrates as well as espouses).

- I consider myself a feminist, in the dictionary sense of someone who is "advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men." As such, I think that men and women alike need to watch this video and reflect on what it represents.

- This young woman succeeded in shaming Egyptian men into joining in public protest: "If you think yourself a man, come with me on January 25th. Whoever says women shouldn't go to protests because they will get beaten, let him have some honor and manhood and come with me on January 25th. If you have honor and dignity as a man, come and protect me, and the other girls in the protest."

- I am just so proud of this young woman, whose eyes now look down upon me from my law school office wall, next to those of Dr. King, as inspiration and reminder of how little I have accomplished, how little I have sacrificed, in a life I profess to have committed to "the public interest," compared with what they have each done in far fewer years. Aside from an occasional assassination threat (usually drunken), all I ever did was to willingly "speak truth to power," and espouse positions, that I knew would prevent my ever being offered the most lucrative jobs in Washington -- because I felt that's what "public service" requires of one. But no one ever actually took a shot at me; I didn't have a lot of desire for what those jobs require you to do anyway; and I'd even written a book about the virtues of knowing the difference between "enough" and "more" (Test Pattern for Living).

- Both King and Mahfouz knowingly confronted death (and one was killed) for the causes in which they believed. Aside from our brave military men and women in combat, and the journalists who bring us their stories (such as Christiane Amanpour), most displays of what passes for male macho shrivels by comparison.

- Her historic launching of the 2011 "Arab Spring."

- How an idea like non-violent protest, and the the power of ordinary people in a democracy, can spread -- from Gandhi, to Dr. King, to Asmaa Mahfouz, who then brings it back again to America, to inspire and encourage us at Occupy Wall Street and throughout our country.

- There were (and are) many uses of cyberspace, the Internet, and social media in this year's global popular protests; but none with the drama and impact of Mahfouz' video on her Facebook page, copied to YouTube, inspiring millions of Egyptians to action, and now seen by probably hundreds of millions more.

- For those who mourn for our species' future, and especially those (such as parents and teachers) who work with, and hope for, the coming generation, Mahfouz is a beacon of possibility, a reminder that -- while there may be none exactly like her -- there are others coming along who have at least some of her smarts, her courage, her natural leadership qualities, her moral values, and her ability to articulate (in at least two languages) all of the above.

- The spark of hope that may be found in "the American fall" that has followed "the Arab spring;" our own, very much smaller and milder, "Occupy" movement. A spark that she reached out and helped to fan with her presence at Occupy Wall Street.

- And to think she doesn't even have a law degree! Just a B.A. in business from Cairo University. Amazing. :>)

Here's to you, Asmaa! Thank you.

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