Monday, February 14, 2011

First Amendment Solutions

I watched last week as the events in Tahrir Square in Cairo played out dramatically and in real time on satellite television. I felt jubilation as I checked online last Friday at lunchtime and saw that Hosni Mubarak had agreed to step down as leader of Egypt. Part of my jubilation came from the fact that the protestors did not turn to violence in their efforts to convince Mr. Mubarak that his time as leader was up. They simply showed up in larger and larger numbers and refused to go. The sheer force of their wanting made it happen without resorting to force.

Somewhat lost in the celebration of this wildly improbable victory of the unarmed and peaceful protestors in Egypt over their kleptocratic longtime tyrant is the connection to the last month’s huge news story: the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and many others in Arizona.

Here in the United States many in the NRA and the Tea Party and Modern Patriots movements are dissatisfied with the current government. They claim President Obama is a fascist, a nazi, a dictator, a tyrant, and unqualified to be President. They say he wants to take the guns of law-abiding citizens. They say he must go. Some even carry signs talking of “Second Amendment remedies” and of the “blood of tyrants” watering the “tree of liberty.”

I think it is important to point out that it wasn’t a “Second Amendment solution” that brought down the Mubarak regime. It was, in fact, a First Amendment solution. The people of Egypt assembled peaceably to use their freedom of speech to ask the government for a redress of grievances. When told to go home, they refused. In fact, they asked louder. When beaten by supporters of Mubarak and other assembled thugs, they responded with free speech, not with any sort of Second Amendment retort. They asked even louder and more insistently for a redress of their grievances.

And in the end it was speech, not guns, that brought Mubarak down. I hope those on the right who use their free speech to spout crazy talk about President Obama’s tyranny can look at the situation in Egypt and see what a real tyrant looks like and how real patriots respond.

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