The American Revolution and the broad romantic view of U.S. democracy have often provided inspiration and guidance to those seeking democracy in their own nations – and for good reason. The amazing set of circumstances that made the American Revolution spark and then succeed, the lofty words of human rights that fueled the new government and still ring universally, and the high quality of those first American leaders are the stuff democratic dreams are made off.
So as the hopefully democratic elections draw closer in Egypt, it may be helpful for democracy supporters there to look again at what happen to keep the American Revolution on track when it looked like it could wither apart before it really took root.
On May 9, 1754, a political cartoon penned by Benjamin Franklin appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper, showing a snake cut into eight pieces. Each piece was labeled with the name of one of the colonies. The cartoon appeared along with Franklin’s editorial about the “disunited state” of the colonies, and helped make his point about the importance of colonial unity.
“Join or die” the caption said. Franklin knew if the different democratic factions could not unite any hope for a full democracy would perish. That is a warning those seeking democracy in Egypt today should heed – and heed now.
Right now in Egypt competing agendas have thwarted a united front against the ruling military. Distrust, resentment, competitive juices and desire for power have broken down the facade of unity that briefly existed on the streets during the Arab Spring last year.
Join or die.
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