Hail The Future Mandelas

There are those who ask if Arabs are ready for freedom. It’s a question that makes my blood boil, for I can think of no human being anywhere who is not ready for the end of oppression. Indeed Egypt, Tunisia and any other country where tyrannical, exploitive regimes have toppled—or will—are bound to fumble their way to whatever form of government they will end up having. Aren’t we in the U.S. still, even if we’ve had over two centuries of practice? Decades ago in my native Morocco I heard the French say Arabs were not ready for freedom when they did not want to let go of their hold of North Africa. I also heard a similar version of the argument during the Civil Rights movement, from those who did not believe in racial equality. I grant there is a margin between not wanting to live under oppression whether from colonialism or from anything else, and being ready to handle the responsibilities of freedom. Whether we like to admit it or not, there no doubt are those for whom individual freedom may be too demanding. Not only would such people form a minority, more to the point countries are also not like individual human beings. They are collectives and within the collective some are strong enough to carry those who are not able to rise to the occasion on their own for whatever reasons. In each movement toward freedom, there are leaders, people who can inspire others. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela are powerful examples, leaders who inspired not only those they were trying to free, but the whole of humanity. That’s why when I contemplate freedom in Arab States, I look forward to the leaders who are bound to come forth, the men—and women—who will lead their countrymen and in turn all of us.