Earlier this week, President Barack Obama delivered his second State of the Union address. I watched the last 30 seconds of it, and read the transcript the next day. There were many calls to the American people to “win the future” and “do big things.” People tweeted and updated Facebook messages throughout the speech, some agreeing with the president’s sentiments and others that thought he indeed invoked a call to WTF (of a different sort).
Perhaps you talked with a friend on the phone and had a lively discussion, or wrote a blog post about it. Maybe you talked with coworkers about the strength or weakness of proposed policies in the break room. You may have persuaded a few people to mobilize in 2012 to re-elect or vote out of office the people who sit in those seats of representative power now. Maybe you’ve even attended a few rallies to bring about changes you support. And, no matter what you believe, you should be a part of the discussion. It’s your country, and if you vote, you have a piece of its power. Most people don’t want harm to come to other people. We only want the best for ourselves, our families, and our communities. We just disagree on how to bring about the best.
Something else happened this week – the uprising in Egypt, and the assertion by their president, Hosni Mubarak, that he would make a gesture, but the status quo would remain unchanged. The government would continue in its corruption, the rich would continue to get richer, and the poor would have to decide between their dignity or their need. Ghada Shabandar, a human rights activist, is quoted in today’s New York Times as saying, “Egyptians are sick and tired of being corrupted and when you live on 300 pounds a month,” about $51, “you have one of two options: you either become a beggar or a thief. The people sent a message: ‘We are not beggars and we do not want to become thieves.’ ”
They try to mobilize through Twitter and Facebook, much like Americans did a few nights earlier, only to have social networks shut down in Egypt by the government. They take to the streets to protest the government, to fight for the best for themselves, their families, and their communities, only to have teargas and rubber bullets rain down on them by the police state the president has invoked. They try to have a voice only to be told that they are not entitled.
This is not a world away, sweetie pies, because we all live on the same planet. The American people are not encapsulated in a bubble of democracy; we are a part of a global society. What happens in Cairo affects those of us who live in Clearwater or Charleston or Chicago. This is not “their” problem. It is our problem. It is our world.
If you decide to heed our president’s call to win the future, to do big things, I implore you to expand your vision. Whatever it is, make it bigger. Reach out further. Help people whose voices have become muted. Improve the state of our global union.