| 03.21.2018

Democracy takes time


Last month, widespread protests erupted across Egypt, challenging President Mohamed Morsi’s control over the country. The protests were in opposition to the newly proposed Egyptian constitution and actions taken by the Morsi administration.What resulted are photos and videos that scare and confuse Americans because there is an angry Arab man screaming at a police officer, reinforcing the notion that the Middle East is a mess of unfixable sectarian violence and regional strife.  However, this is the path democracy takes — it’s messy, it’s complex, but most importantly, it takes time to establish.
The Los Angeles Times reported  Feb. 1 that a riot started outside of the presidential palace where they “threw firebombs over the walls of the presidential palace” and “tossed Molotov cocktails as police advanced,” also reporting the deaths of 54 protestors since the violence began. Many Americans looked at this event as a sign of a region without a chance for a long-term stable democracy. A recent Pew Research poll reported 57 percent of Americans think that changes in political leadership in Middle Eastern countries “will not lead to lasting improvements.” Although it is easy to understand the negative American perception of this event, democracies made from scratch often involve  more societal strife and  require more time to establish.
Consider our own revolution. Did our nation have a seamless transition into a functioning democracy? Heck no. Shay’s Rebellion was an armed uprising that took place in 1786 and 1787. The rural rebellion was the result  of people’s anger with high taxes and an economic depression. The Articles of Confederation were in place for eight years before it became clear they were a failure and the U.S. Constitution was proposed.
These are examples of the drawn-out process of creating a democratic government from scratch — it’s complex, it’s hard work, and it takes time. Why should Americans expect these fragile new democracies to be fully functional within two years after ousting dictators that held power for decades? It’s easy to see why these new protests contribute to the stereotype many westerners have of several Middle Eastern countries. However, this is an improvement for these nations and it is part of the long chaotic path to democracy.
Ryan Tarinelli can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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