Egypt events show off our vile racist trolls

Pro-Morsi protester, by Sarah Carr
By Jan Adams
Jul 7, 2013

There is something about the military coup in Egypt and the ongoing travails of that country that brings out whatever racist and Islamophobic filth lurks in the recesses of what passes for minds among United States right-wingers. 

Here's the Wall Street Journal:

Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, who took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.

My emphasis. Apparently the Journal is enthusiastic about torturing military thugs. The Chilean "transition" only came after Pinochet had held dictatorial power for 17 years and finally, to his surprise, found himself on the wrong end of a sham national vote he expected to win. Even the military was tired of him and democracy was very slowly rebuilt. (The Journal article is behind a paywall, so I've linked to a commentator far more knowledgeable than I who quotes the statement.)

Meanwhile, in the New York Times the conservative columnist David Brooks seized on the occasion of the Egyptian coup to express his essential contempt for the capacity of brown people, Arab people, who adhere to a "foreign" religion. 

Islamists might be determined enough to run effective opposition movements and committed enough to provide street-level social services. But they lack the mental equipment to govern.

… incompetence is built into the intellectual DNA of radical Islam.

... It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients.

Mr. Brooks sure doesn't convince me with this tripe that he has particular brains or powers of observation -- all he seems to have is bigotry about an ancient nation whose citizens are struggling messily toward their own system. 

I don't pretend to much idea what is going on in Egypt. But I do know that citizens of this country forget our own history if we demand that other people who are just trying to get a free country off the ground after a long siege of foreign rule and oppression will pull this off without some bumpy bits. Consider this trajectory: 

  • a rebellious people forms a new representative government and within a decade finds that internal disagreements and populist risings in the countryside have rendered it unworkable;
  • the elected powers-that-be call for a meeting to reform that government structure, but some radical intellectuals secretly plot to replace the existing structure with an entirely new governing arrangement;
  • those plotters persuade a retired general to lend his presence to the secretive convening and emerge with an entirely new document;
  • once that document is ratified, the general becomes the country's new head of state.

Yes -- that's a plausible rendering of the history of the adoption of the United States Constitution. (More on this process here.) The more established countries of the world almost certainly thought they were observing a hopeless muddle that was certain to collapse of its own incompetence soon enough.

Getting a new country off the ground is hard, dicey work. Racist foreign pundits reveal their ugly ignorance when they try to make sense of events through the lens of their fetid prejudices.

Originally posted on Jan's blog Can It Happen Here?

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project

Jan Adams has worked with WarTimes/Tiempo de Guerras since its beginning, coordinating distribution during the three years when the organization published an antiwar tabloid newspaper. She is a lifelong political activist who has worked for justice in Central America (Nicaragua and El Salvador), in South Africa, in the fields of California with the United Farmworkers Union, and for racial and economic equality with electoral and advocacy campaigns in many areas of the United States.

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