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Was watching the Egyptian Revolution a passive Rorschach test?

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Rorschach test: –noun Psychology .
a test for revealing the underlying personality structure of an individual by the use of a standard series of 10 inkblot designs to which the subject responds by telling what image or emotion each design evokes.

For me, as I suspect was the case for many people, watching events in Egypt unfold over the past few weeks was a bit like watching a camcorder fixed to the hat of a friend who was lost in the woods and trying to find her way out. It was at times aggravating, frightening, exciting and ultimately, it was very emotionally gratifying. The lost souls of Egypt found their voice and in so doing, found their way out of the darkness of tyranny.

I’m also well aware that for many many conservative Americans and many of my Jewish brethren, the Egyptian revolution was a cause for discomfort. After all, Murbarak was a long time friend of Israel and an ally of the United States. For many average citizens and world leaders, the tyranny of the Egyptian regime was not as important as the stability Murbarak brought to the region.

In fact, it was our government that provided the very authoritarian regime in Cairo with much of the money and political support it needed to stay in power all these decades. That fact is certainly not lost on the Egyptian people and those of us who believe that morality should always trump self-interest.

The wide disparity in the reactions of Americans in general, and friends of Israel in particular, highlight the very human values and priorities that shape our personal political perspectives. For me, this was a battle of good versus evil; for so many others, the Egyptian "Facebook-Revolution" raised all kinds of red flags about American and Israeli interests.

While the usual professional agitators on Fox Noise were warning us that Egypt was now destined to become an Iranian style theocracy, I was shedding tears watching an extraordinary interview with Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who was initially kidnapped by security forces and later released. This man’s love and humanity is truly remarkable and if you haven’t seen that renowned interview he gave in the hours after his release, I can’t strongly enough encourage you to invest the time.

When the announcement finally came on Friday, February 2 that they Egyptian military was going to assist President Mubarak to retire to his villa in Sharm el-Sheikh, I heard myself belt out a “YES” that I suspect was audible beyond the walls of my home. Moments later I found myself cringing as I watched a satirical video by Israeli artist that suggested that events in Egypt were part and parcel of on ever-expanding new Arab caliphate seeking world domination.

Observing the incredibly varied reactions so many people had to events in Egypt over the past few weeks, it occurred to me that this historical event served as kind of Rorschach test of the values and priorities that guide our lives:

  • Do you react to events around you by first determining their impact on you personally?
  • How much influence does your moral compass have in interpreting events and “choosing sides” in a conflict?

The tension between self-interest and morality not only can be found in how American foreign policy is shaped, by how each of us on an individual basis formulate our political perspectives and priorities.

In a December 10, 20010 interview with John Boehner on Sixty Minutes, we learned that the Republican Speaker of the House went from being a Kennedy liberal to a Reagan Republican only after he made millions of dollars in the private sector and was stunned by how much of what he earned he had to pay in taxes. Clearly for Boehner, the impact of the government on an individual's self-interests determined the direction of his politics and career.

On the other hand, the late Ted Sorensen in a book entitled, Why I am a Democrat, explained that choice of political parties was in large measure based on his belief that government can serve as a tool for alleviating the poverty, injustice and social disparities found in American life.

So how did you do on the Egyptian Revolution Rorschach Test?




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