Submitted to The Towerlight (Towson University)
February 17, 2011
By Kimberly Painter
Whether we are catching up to those on Facebook, finding our way on Google Maps, doing research for a history paper, or tweeting about Christina Aguilera’s botching of the National Anthem and subsequent fall at the Grammys, everywhere we look we are surrounded by social media, our brains itching to be in the know of what’s really going on in our daily lives. Even if we aren’t actually “there,” so to speak, the World Wide Web allows us to experience things up close and personal. Mark Zuckerberg’s seven-year-old prodigy is pretty popular, even spawning its own movie deal, but who knew it could transform a government? I’ve got to say, even I was pretty skeptical.
It all began last June, when Khaled Said, a young Egyptian blogger, was allegedly killed by two plain-clothes Egyptian police officers. He was minding his own business at an Internet café, and when he refused to give up his money or let the officers search him, they dragged him outside and beat him to death in the street. The New York Times Middle East notes that shortly after this incident, “an anonymous human rights activist created a Facebook page—We are all Khaled Said.” Here graphic photos of the young man were posted, adding fuel to the fire and propelling months of protests. Said became a martyr for the Egyptian people. He, like many citizens, knew that the government was corrupt and wanted to do something about it. He also had in his possession, a video implicating the law enforcement in a drug deal. This incriminating evidence ultimately brought about his murder. Not until this February do we find out that Google executive Wael Ghonim, an Egyptian himself but living in the United Emirates, created the page.
Awareness, in and of itself, is a huge weapon. Many of us turn a blind eye to the issues around us. The youth of Cairo, however, did not. They organized stand-ins and peace protests via Twitter from their phones all the while police were desperately trying to oust the internet. Ghonim had a good family and enough financial freedom. He could have very well stayed in his villa and never bothered with his homeland. Instead, he risked his life and that of the ones he loved to do what was right.
President Obama’s comments via Truth-out.org: “Above all, we saw a new generation emerge -- a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears; a government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations.” Ultimately Hosni Mubarak answered to his people and stepped down, but only time will tell if Egypt can rebuild itself.
With schoolwork, jobs, internships, family, friends, sorority/fraternity functions, who has the time to start a revolution? We do. Join Democracy Matters and help us shed some light on current issues, both on and off campus. Let us know what concerns you. We are a nonpartisan student group dedicated to ordinary people. Because, as the story goes, ordinary people can bring about extraordinary change. How could we use the power of the Internet to sway big business? Elections? The food industry? We’d love to hear your ideas. As Senator John McCain mentioned on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, February 13, "I don't think this... is confined to the Middle East, just as we believe that human rights are universal." Simply put, Democracy Matters - in Egypt, in the U.S., in Towson, and in us all.
For more information about Democracy Matters, feel free to contact us at
. We meet every Tuesday at 3:30pm in the Cook Library Lobby (behind the information desk).