This is What Democracy Looks Like

Day 16 of the protests in Egypt. No one expected such a big turn out today, but people came out in droves, many for the first time.

Poor women and women wearing Gucci. Lawyers, workers. Students, teachers. Children, babies.

Many were deeply moved by Egyptian Google Exec Wael Ghonim’s emotional television interview, in which he discussed his 12-day detention (blindfolded) at the hands of the secret police and expressed his heartache at the deaths of hundreds of protesters.

At least a quarter of a million turned out in Tahrir Square yesterday, and tens of thousands spent the night, huddled over fires, playing music, talking, catching a few moments of sleep. I imagine it must feel magical to be there in a way only such historic moments can: to taste freedom, to feel the power of solidarity.

It’s a pivotal time in Egypt of course: how long will people keep this up? And how will the government respond?

I continue to have a deep faith in the Egyptian people and a great hope for their liberation. And I have been surprised and deeply moved by both their courage and their desire for democracy.

It turns out most Americans agree. A Gallup poll of 1015 adults released yesterday reports 2/3 of Americans are following the protests in Egypt – and a whopping 82% are “very” or “somewhat” sympathetic to the protestors.

So where is Obama? Where is the Obama I voted for, the one who went to Cairo just a year and a half ago to tell the Arab world it had to take responsibility for its destiny?

This is not a time to find a middle course between Omar Suleiman and the protestors; between Israel, Saudi Arabia and Mubarak on the one side, and the people of Egypt on the other. You may find a compromise on the US tax code, but not on the desire of a people to be free. That is a shameful approach.

And what a shame it would be to squander this moment, when the US could step up instead and say to the people of Egypt, “We support you in words AND in deeds. And though it may be risky to support you, we do and we will. Because we believe in freedom. Because we know democracy is the best basis of our security and the world’s. We are willing to put the desire of a people to be free above all else because that is what we stand for.”

This is Obama’s Gorbachev moment. Imagine if he took it. Imagine if he encouraged the people of Egypt and the entire Arab world to ‘tear down this wall,’ and actually backed it up. If he doesn’t, it’s up to us to make him.

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