Mary Shaw

Mary Shaw
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
May 07
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that the ideas expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty International or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail:

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FEBRUARY 28, 2011 6:56AM

This is what democracy looks like

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Around the world, the frustration of ordinary people with the economy, unemployment, corruption, and repression has reached critical mass. They're mad as hell, as the famous movie line goes, and they're not going to take it anymore. The people are taking to the streets in protest. And it's working -- maybe.

On February 27, Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced his resignation under pressure from the masses. This came just a few weeks after his ally, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was driven from power after weeks of intensive civil resistance from the grassroots.

Meanwhile, the people of Egypt have driven dictator Hosni Mubarak out of the country following 18 days of demonstrations.

And, in Libya, things are not looking good for Muammar Gaddafi, as of this writing. The people there, too, have had enough.

On the other side of the world, working folks in Wisconsin continue protesting Governor Scott Walker's proposed union-busting budget bill which would cut state workers' collective bargaining rights. And, on February 26, people all around the U.S. participated in solidarity rallies in support of the Wisconsin workers.

This is what democracy looks like.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya will result in true democracies that will be better for the people than the governments that sparked their revolutions.

Similarly, there is no guarantee that the protests in Wisconsin will prevent Governor Walker from eventually getting his way.

But it is a start.

It is the only truly practical way for the people to fight corruption and repression.

And it is the only way that true democracy can be born.

We spent the first eight years of this century hearing about how the Bush administration was going to spread democracy to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the rest of the world. But history offers all too many examples to prove that you cannot spread democracy at the point of a gun.

Democracy has to start at the grassroots.

Like in Philadelphia in the 1770s.

Like in Tunisia today.

And in Egypt.

And in Libya.

And in Wisconsin.

This is where the people hold the power. And isn't that what democracy is all about?

Author tags:

wisconsin, libya, egypt, tunisia, politics

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We were just having this conversation at our tiny Episcopal church yesterday. I feel as though I woke up from a complacent RipVanWInkle length sleep to a horrific political nightmare. You are right...anger, oh yeah...and the Right's political agenda...SO NOT OKAY with me! To sleeping giants who awake in time to change the tide of crazy ...and our bretheren. Good post! R
if you imagine democracy began in philadelphia in the 1770's, you haven't been paying attention.

democracy is 'rule by the people,' and there is very little of it. if you read the published works of the people who wrote the constitution, they are frank in their contempt for the institution, and equally frank in their determination that it will not occur in the usa. use of the word perpetuates a great lie, a doublethink ploy of the ruling guild to keep the cattle quiet. it has been brilliantly successful.

with luck, the outbreak of revolt among the arab peoples will bring some of them the benefits of elective oligarchy, which is a step up from dictatorship. others will slip back into military rule, as is the current situation in egypt.