Saturday, January 29, 2011

There's Rioting in Africa

Old Kingston Trio Song:

"There's rioting in Africa, there's strife in Iran  
"What nature doesn't do to us will be done by our fellow man."

In Iran, demonstrations were put down by the Revolutionary Guard a year and a half ago. Today, protests and strife ripples across Egypt--a terribly unstable situation that will have changed and progressed by the time I conclude the post. You can tune in to live shots of masses in streets and on a bridge; you can hear the bangs of rubber bullets and tear gas canisters exploding.

In 1972, Denny and I were just trying to go home to our apt. on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge when we got caught up in the middle of a crowded demonstration.  Such were the times that you could just run into a protest on your way home.  Lots of people were yelling and moving around fast, and we had to fight our way through the mob to get to our apt.  We felt a huge police presence, with scary gleaming shields and masks. With the first whiffs of tear gas, we knew we wanted to be OUT of the mob, and rushed our way to our little second-floor apartment, where we could watch the incident from safety. It took a few days for the tear gas smell to leave our home.

Being caught in the middle of that relatively unhistorical experience gave me more compassion for police who might overstep during civil unrest. Now CNN is reporting that the Cairo police are scared of the people. Everyone is armed now with a samurai sword or with the hose to their vacuum cleaner. Ordinary Egyptians are now concerned, apart from the politics, to defend their homes.

Since beginning this post, watching Egyptian chaos from the safety of TV, I've seen coverage move from freedom of expression to chaotic destruction and looting. Plus, it's part of a ripple effect: in addition to Yemen and Tunisia, Jordan is now starting to de-stabilize.  Iran is reportedly "watching quietly." We don't know what will happen next, but I'm pretty it won't be to the advantage of the United States.


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