You Say You Want A Revolution?

This week I watched as many thousands of Egyptians celebrated the exit of a dictator with unbridled joy, their faces reflecting the release of their subjugated spirits.  I rejoiced with them, not without a little envy that I wasn’t watching those faces celebrating in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba, and filled by a desire for all the world’s people who live in oppression to experience their release.  What a divine moment!

But just a moment…

What next?

I am no expert on Egyptian politics, but I have lived through at least one revolution that  leads me to approach these things with caution.

I once lived through a moment like this in a land very far from Egypt more than a half a century ago.  In the first exhilarating moments, as we welcomed our saviors from Batista and took to the streets in celebration of Fidel’s arrival. we were unprepared for the challenges of freedom We stayed in the moment of celebration for too long and failed to look around us and ahead.  We have paid dearly for that.

I have worked extensively with abused women through my years as a psychotherapist.  I was a Mental Health Program Coordinator in charge of a domestic violence program that treated survivors and perpetrators of abuse, and for years volunteered my time in shelters where I strove to empower women as they faced the challenge of taking charge of their lives, of starting over in the absence of their once knights in shining armors.

New found freedom, whether from an abusive partner or an abusive dictator, brings with it a certain feeling of vertigo.  The childlike need to be “taken care of”, whether by a tyrant in the home or a tyrant head of government, forces individuals and populations to abdicate responsibility for their own welfare.  The victims look to the abuser for direction, for their very sustenance.  In their absence there is a risk that the vacuum will be filled by the first benevolent seeming figure to take their place. Sometimes, benevolent seeming is not a requirement.  Overcome by vertigo, individuals as well as nations fall into the arms of whoever shows up next.  Many times, after the initial sigh of relief, both find themselves in worse predicaments.

I am struck by the fact the the Egyptians are now at the mercy of an army that followed their commander Hosni Mubarak’s orders for for thirty years, and I wonder if their obvious zest for freedom and their stated commitment to work towards democracy will be strong enough to overcome their need to trust those who promise relief.  I wonder if  they will have the clarity that is imperative in order to discern what is best for their country, or if they will fall into the temptation to “look up to” a new savior or saviors.  Will they be up to the challenge of looking ahead and uniting as a people to realize their own vision of freedom?  Is it too much to ask a people who have not known freedom for thirty years to conceptualize what freedom will look like for them?

Observing Egypt I think of my own people.  My fellow Cubans on the island who haven’t taken a free breath for generations; my fellow Cubans who abused by one tyrant, fell right into the arms of another much more macabre than the previous one.  My fellow Cubans in exile are not united.  Were there to be a rising of the people in Havana, a frantic celebration of new found freedom, would things be different?   Would Cubans be able to find their way to freedom, or simply settle for a more tolerable tyranny?

You say you want a revolution?

Well, you know, we all want to change the world…..

But are we prepared?

My hopes and prayers are with the people of Egypt, of Cuba, of  the abused, and all the people of the world for whom freedom is only a dream.

7 comments

  1. That is exactly how I feel. Like you, I am no expert in Egypt. Like you, I lived those days of joy when Cubans felt liberated from the Batista dictatorship. The celebrations in Egypt have taken me back to the celebrations in Cuba more than half a century ago. And my hope and prayer is that Egyptians will know better and do better than us and not fall into the arms of a worse tyrant.

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  2. How well and beautifully written are your comments and expressions of this emotional and dangerous time in Egypt. It seems like time is standing still, waiting for the best but scared of the worst. Just like the first few months and years of Cuba’s revolution has taken us to more than half a century of pain and isolation, half a century of lack of freedom. We wish the best to the Egytians and to all of us in this earth.
    May God Bless us to find our ways to Freedom and Democracy.
    Thank you Adrianne for your words that make us think.

    Carmen Guerra
    A Pedro Pan sister.

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  3. Yes Adrianne, it is indeed a “scenario” familiar to cuban exiles…the exchanging of a dictator for a democratic government. I pray that their revolution does not unfold into a situation worse than ours…for which we’re still paying, since our cuban “Messiah” turned out to be a demon of sorts, with the ability to hang on to power in a manner that still is challenging the history of world tyrants.

    Hopefully the egyptians will have a better fate, considering that they have frontiers to share with other nations, perhaps the proximity of their neighbors will influence the balance of government due to the geographic area. Let us pray that they will attain the democracy they seek since humanity benefits whenever a nation achieves peace and prosperity.

    Emy Botet

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    1. Emy, now that there’s a movement afoot to have Cubans protest in Havana, the isolation of the island is even more palpable.
      I would be surprised if anything were to happen, as our people have been living in fear for so long that they might not dare to make a move. But there is no doubt that there are times when being an island puts you at quite a strategic disadvantage. Thank you as always for your comments!

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  4. PD – I was just told that a similar movement is expected to happen in Cuba as a result of the Egyptian success in overthrowing their dictator. There are waves of another Revolution in Cuba, now as we speak.

    Emy Botet

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