Egyptians protesting non-violently in the streets of Cairo.

As any psychotherapist knows, depending upon the degree of abuse, repression or trauma experienced, it can take years for a person to feel free from the shackles of memory, the reality of the present moment, and the choices that have to be made in order to move beyond  the experiences of oppression.

Why would we assume it to be different for entire nations?

The crushing crowds of people filling the streets of Cairo, which nobody can deny as being anything less than a victorious ousting of one of the strongest regimes in the Middle East, was accomplished non-violently, and that others are attempting to follow their lead is more than simply impressive.  It comes as close to resembling a 21st century miracle as anything we have seen – at least in my life-time.

Yet, as stated in an Israeli newspaper by Meron Rapoport; “Nobody knows where this triumph will take Egypt.” He rightly questions: “Will a military regime arise? Will an Islamic government take shape? Or Egypt’s own sort of democracy? Or mere anarchy?”

We are all left hoping for the best and wondering ~ wondering about the millions of people in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain who are continuing to demonstrate the overwhelming human need for freedom.

I assume that many of you feel as I do.  I can’t, in fact, imagine any American not wishing to live in a world where all people live peacefully within their own country and with neighboring countries. Yet, the reality of what has occurred after revolutions throughout history is less than encouraging.

In reading *Waller. R. Newell’s overview of what has happened after every revolution, he points to significant parallels.  And although those who are tumbling their governments in 2011 are the first who have been able to reach the world and be reached in turn thanks to the internet and cell phones, we cannot yet know what the outcomes will be.

Newell traces the “reformist phase” of revolutions since the French Revolution and concludes that “focusing on individual rights and opportunity is swept aside by radicals who want an egalitarian and collectivist order.” He cites “liberal reformers such as Lafayette and Mirabeau who were inspired by the American Revolution with its emphasis on individual liberty” but were then followed by Marat and Robespierre.  In the same manner,” he continues, “ Kerensky was followed by Lenin; BeniSadr by Khomeini.”

I think the strongest and most depressing part of his argument is that he refers to the truly revolutionary phase as being “preceded by the delusion of the part of the reformers that they can form a partnership with the radicals, harnessing their populist energy to help bring about the transition to free elections, economic modernization, and individual rights.”

“The radicals, for their part,” he concludes, “always look on these alliances as purely tactical, to be overturned when the time is right to take over.” And, he continues, “We can predict a similar outcome for Mohammad El Baradei’s and other reformers’ opening to the Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders.”

His final prediction is that “within a few months of a transitional reformist regime taking over, headed by a coalition of largely secular reformists, we will see enormous demonstrations in the streets by followers of the Muslim Brotherhood, far better organized and militant than the ones that drove out Mubarak, a sea of banners shouting for the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of all American and western influence.  Let’s make good and certain we know what we’re wishing for in Egypt.  Authoritarian regimes can transition to liberal democracy, but it’s an infinitely complex and potentially dangerous process.”

Just when I was fighting with myself not to think that this all too familiar pattern will be repeated, I opened today’s Times to see an article – almost hidden from view – appearing in the middle of the paper in a small, easy to miss box.  Its heading: Message to Egypt from Quaeda’s No 2.   Its message:  “Al Qaeda’s Egyptian-born second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, attacked secular rule in Egypt in an audio lecture released Friday, but the message appeared to have been recorded before President Hosni Mubarak stepped down last week.  Experts on the terrorist network have been eager to hear its reaction to the nonreligious demonstrations that led to the ouster of presidents in Tunisia and Egypt.  But Mr. Zawahri’s lecture, though titled : ‘A Message of Hope and Glad Tidings to Our People in Egypt,’ referred to Mr. Mubarak as ‘the biggest Arab Zionist’ and to his son Gamal as ‘the awaited leader,’ suggesting that it was recorded before Mr. Mubarak’s resignation on Feb. 11.”

So, here we go again.  A so-called message of HOPE which carries with it hatred for non-fundamentalist secular democracies.

Will the courageous people who are risking their lives to be free find lasting support?  What will the leaders of the free world do?  What will America do?  What can our leaders do to help insure that it will happen?  Yes, they want all people to enjoy freedom from fear and oppression? And, yes, we do not know what is going on behind the scenes in the arena of diplomatic relations.  It seems, though, that they are all waffling for now.

However, these are complex times with no easy solutions. And, while we are still able to see and hear many of the brave people who are protesting in the streets, we cannot yet know if they will be victorious.  We can only hope that they will … and, in the words of Waller R. Newell, “let’s make good and certain we know what we’re wishing for in Egypt” and elsewhere.

However, without faith that good things do sometimes happen to good people, we are left bereft.  We can hope, though, that change is possible and that there will be no horrendous cost for those fighting for their inalienable rights and that it will be possible for them to move beyond the experiences of oppression.

*Waller R. Newall is a professor of political science and philosophy, the author of several books, commentaries and monographs too numerous to mention and among other leading thinkers in today’s world, he was Moderator for “The Clash of Civilizations” conducted at Harvard University.

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