Egypt: Coup or the will of those governed?

It was the Fourth of July, and democratically elected Egyptian government was removed by a powerful army. This was a bad thing, right? So why was I so terribly conflicted?

In the United States, we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July. Because of that declaration we have a system that absolutely guarantees that the army is eternally subordinate to the vote of the people—our powerful army would not remove our president and or invalidate our congress.

Before the United States military issued me a weapon and a uniform I swore a solemn oath “to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic.” And that sacred document unequivocally established the process of election and the complete subordination of the military to those elected.

That same Constitution also forbade any, “establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” There was also set forth an unfailing process that would assure peaceful remedies if that rule (or any other) was violated by the “government.”

One of the principal reasons for the recent protests in Egypt was the interjection of conservative religious values into people’s lives through their government, without the same peaceful remedies we enjoy.

Our Declaration of Independence states, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Until yesterday I was certain—absolutely and totally certain—that, this consent is only given by elections and “due process.”

I am not so sure now.

Now I wonder if the “consent of the governed” can be expressed in other ways—like the crowds of people who took to the streets in Egypt. Or, like the Civil Rights activists who took to the streets in the United States and marched against the elected governments of George Wallace and Herman Talmadge.

Please take the time to read the two articles linked below.  They are worth more than a single reading. What do you think after reading these articles?

Daily News, “Egypt’s coup de quoil?”

Financial Times“Egypt’s coup revives cold war moral choices”

A dispatch from Cairo

As a senior member of the Board of Governors of the American Jewish Committee, I received the following “dispatch” from Cairo:


July 2, 2013

Dear Members of the Board of Governors:

Tonight, I share with you this very timely and truly courageous “Live From…” short video, straight from Cairo.

Many of you had the privilege of hearing from and meeting Dalia Ziada (short biography below) at the AJC Global Forum and I know you must be as inspired as I by her courage and leadership.  Dalia recorded this critical message exclusively for AJC.

Here is the short link to the video on the website:  Please share this video far and wide in your networks through email and within your social media outlets on Facebook and Twitter.  Events are unfolding by the minute and this is a unique message that should be shared quickly.

During this week of celebrating America’s independence, I know you join me in gratitude for Dalia and all of our friends, who fight for freedom and independence every day for all people.

Dalia Ziada is an award-winning Egyptian human rights activist, socio-political analyst, and public speaker, and serves as Executive Director of the Cairo-based Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, which advocates for human rights and civil freedoms in Egypt and the Arab world. Newsweek named her two years in a row (2011 and 2012) as one of the world’s most influential and fearless women.  CNN cited her in 2012 as one of the Arab World’s eight agents of change, and The Daily Beast, in 2011, called her one of world’s 17 bravest bloggers.

Celebrating the rescue in Denmark

In a previous post I shared the story of the Jewish Danish citizens. A rescue like the one in Denmark happened nowhere else in Europe. Here in South Dakota we have a connection of the bravery of the Danish people, the Scandinavian tradition, and it is mirrored in the tradition of the Lutheran Church. Yet, here in South Dakota almost no one of Scandinavian heritage is aware of their magnificent tradition.

Late last year and in the beginning of this year I first became aware of the need to tell the tale of the rescue in Denmark.

I met with Bishop David Zellmer and we discussed what a wonderful thing it would be to memorialize this incredible expression of faith on Sunday, September 30th in the over 230 South Dakota ELCA churches. He agreed and asked me to tell the story at the Synod’s Annual conclave on Saturday, June 8th—which I did.

As I thought further, it occurred to me that the message should even be more widely circulated. For that purpose, the amphitheater at Mount Rushmore has been reserved from 4 until 6 the afternoon of September 28th and the restaurant for a celebration dinner that night.

The program is in formation and—as suggested to the Danish soldiers—the most wonderful thing would be to have the Queen of Denmark come to this bastion and symbol of freedom as we remembered the wonderful things that her grandfather and the Danish people performed.