As of the posting of this article, the death toll in Egypt's ongoing struggle for democracy is at or above 700 people, with more than 4,000 injured. These numbers reflect 48 hours of intense conflict to determine the future leadership of a nation that has spent generation under totalitarian rule.
As we watch from here, we find it barbaric, like cavemen fighting over fire with clubs and rocks. What we fail to realize is that history has shown us that no democratic republic is established without intense conflict.
Casualty figures from the Revolutionary War vary widely, based in large part by the fact that as many or more people died from disease in those times than in combat. The numbers range from 8,000 - 50,000 soldiers killed during the battle for our freedom from British rule.
The American Civil War cost us 2% of our entire population, an estimated 620,000 people. This war was initiated over the issue of whether or not we would continue to allow the barbaric practice of slavery in our young nation.
By comparison, the struggle in Egypt is barely in its infancy, and they are battling for their freedom as a nation.
On February 11th, the people of Egypt gained a remarkable victory by forcing the resignation of totalitarian leader Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt since 1981. On June 3, 2012, Egypt held its first democratic election and Mohammed Morsi was elected president. Morsi is considered to be a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world's oldest and most influential Islamic movements.
Unfortunately, President Morsi started by "temporarily" granting himself unlimited authority to legislate without judicial authority or review. He said this was to "protect Egypt from a Mubarak style power structure", but it was viewed as exactly a Mubarak style power grab.
The people took to the streets on June 30th, demanding that President Morsi, in office for just over a year, step down. The military sided with the populists, and Morsi was unseated on July 3rd.
This prompted a rebellion from Morsi supporters and the Muslim Brotherhood, claiming that the democratically elected leader was being ousted in an action that equaled no less than a tyrannical coup by radicals who seek to suppress true freedom.
Tensions are incredibly high as both sides can taste their version of freedom and their version of returning to oppression. After spending 30+ years under a corrupt oppressive regime, nobody wants to go back to that life. Much as we in the U.S.A. see in our politics on a daily basis, there are at least two incredibly strong opinions on how to achieve the freedom they all seek. Neither side believe the other has their best interests at heart, and speak out vehemently against the other side.
Egypt doesn't have Political Action Committees (PACs) with unlimited funding by the wealthiest people in the nation to wage a propaganda war to swing an electorate to vote for their party at the next election. If they did, they would focus on spreading rumors and distorting statistics to suit their party's political agenda, counting on a vastly uneducated and/or ideologically polarized public to blindly follow the rhetoric sold to them by the highest bidder.
The more than 700 people who have died in Egypt felt it was worth risking their lives to speak out in the hope they would live to see their nation run in a mostly democratic fashion, not exactly like the western world, but their version of it, the way truly free nations should operate.
As usual, we are using the conflict in Egypt as a political tool here. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has called for all funding sent to Egypt to be stopped in light of the unrest. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), meanwhile, has called for the President to not only condemn the military action on the pro-Morsi demonstrators, but call for the Muslim Brotherhood to demand calm from the protesters. Many outspoken conservatives have decried the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization that tacitly supports radical Islamic groups, charges they can't support, but use as a nice rallying point against the President and his support of the democratically elected party in Egypt.
The images and video coming from Egypt are sad, disturbing, and tragic, and the use of military force against your own citizenry is absolutely unacceptable, but we have to accept to a degree that when you hear the slogan "freedom isn't free", this is what it means.
We hope that this struggle for freedom results in what our struggles have resulted in, the ongoing shaping of a more perfect union.