During his administration, President George W. Bush asked the following questions: “Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?” Bush questioned freedom and unalienable rights for all, which are outlined in the Declaration of Independence. The Middle East has begun to answer the questions President Bush posed. The violent demonstrations in Egypt, Jordan and Yemen spurred by revolt in Tunisia, have affirmed that the answer is no. Moreover, it helps illustrate how cultures don’t compete on a level playing field and how some are superior to others.
The question of whether freedom is unique to Western culture seems to be answered by each crisis in the Middle East. The answer is twofold; freedom is something all people yearn for, but it is difficult and often deadly to procure. Citizens have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the acts of their governments and demand reform. Even though these governments are largely top-down and authoritarian and the demonstrators’ goals are not precisely life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, citizens are demanding the abstract values that freedom represents. To Egyptians, every day Hosni Mubarak remains in power, he does so as a dictator supported only by force.
This begs the question of why American political culture is different from that of the Egyptians? The answer is simple: All cultures aren’t equal. Before you liberals overreact and call me racist, sexist or stereotypical, tour the world and see if all American culture is comparable to Communist China and other hellholes around the world. When was the last large-scale, “uncivil” revolt in the United States? The criticism isn’t of the Arab people, since (from the conservative perspective) all individuals are born equal. Moreover, it’s the policies practiced and imbued in societies such as Egypt, Iran, former Iraq and elsewhere which cause citizens to revolt against their regimes or to live in fear of retaliation should they speak out. Will Arab states undertake reforms that allow free speech, liberty and private property rights, or will they conclude that exiled Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali failed only because he didn’t suppress enough demonstrators?
Furthermore, when will Americans appreciate their own culture, which is the most tolerant, accepting and diverse in the world? Where else is there such a mixture of ethnic background coupled with political tolerance that creates a large civil society based on ballot boxes and not by armed revolt? Our political culture is superior to most around the world. Be proud of it.
The Middle East is a fundamentally different society than the United States. As human beings we evolve from the overarching values that define societies. These values aren’t equal. Our values of free speech, individual liberty and our civil behavior foster a fundamentally different culture than suppression and coercion by threat of force. I urge all Americans to celebrate our diverse culture and appreciate the freedoms that make our society the pinnacle of freedom in the world.