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This is what democracy looks like

February 28th, 2011

Mary Shaw

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?

Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views on politics, human rights, and social justice issues have appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and magazines worldwide. 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: mary@maryshawonline.com

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