Protests highlight value of our liberties

The Issue: Protests in some Middle Eastern and African countries in recent months are changing the face of democracy worldwide.

Our Stance: These movements cause us to reflect on the freedoms we take for granted.

American revolutionary and drafter of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
We in the West have witnessed these words in action in the Middle East and North Africa over the past several months.
From Algeria to Iraq, long-oppressed peoples have taken to the streets, even in the face of police brutality, to demand the simple universal human rights we take for granted in the United States.
Many of these protesters are college-educated, unemployed and under 30, part of a massive youth bubble in the Middle East demanding jobs, homes and a fulfillment of youthful aspirations that have been repressed by their governments.
They are a part of our generation and though a world away, they are not so different from us.
This youth movement has used the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution as a gauge and a guide for their own revolutions and the democracies they hope to form.
While protesters, especially in Egypt, are actively taking part in their newly won democratic processes, we in the United States have grown indifferent to our democracy and the rights it gives us when our active attention is most needed.
With the number of “baby boomers” (born between 1946 and 1964) outnumbering our generation today, we will lose power and benefits from our government as the older generation begins to pull its large political weight.
If we should take any lesson from the protests in the Middle East and North Africa, it should be that our liberties are precious and we, no matter what political belief we have, should become more organized and peacefully active in our democracy as a generation, lest we should come to know oppression firsthand.

Staff editorial by Eric Villanueva ’11

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