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October 21st, 2014

The Square ***

 

Nominated for Best Documentary

 
Americans tend to have a positive view of revolutions.

 

That certainly makes sense, since the revolution that founded our country was so remarkably successful.

 

Most revolutions wind up with dreadful unintended consequences, though.

 

Look at the French Revolution. It began with the ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. Before long there was The Reign of Terror. Then the French started an offensive war that engulfed most of Europe. And it concluded with tens of thousands of soldiers freezing to death in the brutal Russian winter.

 

Most revolutions fail and cause more harm than good.

 

It looks like the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt is one of them.

 

“The Square” begins in 2011. A crowd of idealistic young Egyptians swarmed Cairo’s Tahrir Square and demanded the ouster of corrupt dictator Hosni Mubarak.

 

For thirty years, Mubarak’s Egypt had been a peaceful neighbor to Israel and America’s closest Arab ally. It was a surprise to me that President Obama was so eager to call for Mubarak’s resignation. I think that the speed with which Obama turned against America’s loyal friend was the worst mistake of his presidency.

 

The folly of the Arab Spring became clear soon after the dictator stepped down. The protestors had a splendid plan for removing Mubarak from power, but no plan for how to take power themselves.

 

“It was as if we studied hard and aced a test,” one eloquent young protestor explains, “but we forget to put our name on the paper and now anyone can take credit for it.”

 

According to the very biased documentary, The Muslim Brotherhood was the class bully who grabbed the test and wrote its name on it.

 

After the Arab Spring revolutionaries left Tahrir Square, The Muslim Brotherhood began holding organized political rallies there. Unlike the liberals, the Brotherhood had a concrete goal: to transform Egypt into the holy Islamist state that it certainly wasn’t under secularist Mubarak.

 

The Arab Spring protestors were calling for freedom and dignity. What they got was democracy.

 

Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was elected leader of Egypt and the liberals learned the ugly truth: they had fought to get rid of a dictator, and they ended up with a president who was perhaps even worse.

 

In response, the protestors returned to The Square. This time, the demonstrations turned into bloody, chaotic riots. Eventually, through, the persistent young idealists got their way and Morsi was forced to resign, too.

 

What’s left now, though, is a power vacuum. It appears that the military is stepping in to try to establish law and order. And the military is not sympathetic to the Arab Spring’s liberal ideals.

 

The documentary mysteriously ends on a hopeful, upbeat note. But I view the story differently. “The Square” is a testament to how revolutions rarely end up the way that the revolutionaries intend them to. And that even seemingly peaceful revolutions end up causing a lot of death and misery.

 

Heck, even a wildly successful revolution like the American Revolution resulted in a long war with many thousands of deaths. That’s why I’m content to express my protests peacefully using my computer. I’ll never take to the streets as a revolutionary.

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