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Dodging Dominoes

One of the more interesting facets of the ongoing protests in Egypt has been how neighboring countries are responding to populist unrest in their own countries. In advance of Yemen's "Day of Rage" set for Thursday, Yemen's president released this

protest-in-egypt.jpg
One of the more interesting facets of the ongoing protests in Egypt has been how neighboring countries are responding to populist unrest in their own countries.

In advance of Yemen's "Day of Rage" set for Thursday, Yemen's president released this statement:

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Wednesday he will not seek to extend his presidency in a move that would bring an end to a three-decade rule when his current term expires in 2013.

Eyeing protests that brought down Tunisia's leader and threaten to topple Egypt's president, Saleh also vowed not to pass on the reins of government to his son.

"No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock," Saleh said, speaking ahead of a planned large rally due on Thursday in Sanaa that has been dubbed a "Day of rage."

I'm not sure the people are willing to wait until 2013. We'll see.

Moving on to Jordan, King Abdullah II has replaced his entire cabinet in an effort to expedite reforms.

The surprise move by the monarch, a key U.S. ally, was intended to prevent growing demonstrations across the country from gathering steam. But the Islamist opposition promised more protests, charging that the new prime minister is unfit to rule and that the king's step did not go far enough.

Members of Islamist and secular groups had demanded the dismissal of Rifai and his cabinet, widely accused of corruption. The government was also blamed for cutting subsidies that led to rises in fuel and food prices and for moving too slowly on political reform.

Over in Syria, unrest is also afoot with a rally being organized to take place in Damascus. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad isn't shaking up the government over it, because he claims to be "closely linked to the beliefs of the people." Yet, there are still organizing efforts afoot for a February 5th "day of rage".

The organizers of the planned demonstrations in Damascus and Aleppo have listed their demands: an improvement in living standards, respect for human rights, freedom of speech for all Syrian citizens, and greater influence for Syrian youth. They requested that the protesters come equipped with nothing more than Syrian flags and signs expressing their demands.

Dominoes can fall far away, or close to home. I can't help but notice the similarities between what has sparked the commitment to these demonstrations in the Middle East and our own situation here. Rising food prices, fuel prices, high unemployment, poverty and increasing divides between the haves and have-nots are not Muslim or Christian concerns. They're human concerns, and they exist in this country, too.

Over the weekend, I noticed that Coca-Cola and Nestle shut down their operations in Egypt, at least temporarily until things stabilize. Who knew they even had operations in Egypt? I wonder what they paid their workers. I'm guessing it wasn't enough for them to get ahead, just like here.

At the heart of these demonstrations, there's a human cry to be heard, to have hope, and a pathway to a better future. That's not all that different from here. We have the benefit of having elections, but whether they're free or fair is another question, given the current right-wing attack on minority voters and efforts at voter suppression, not to mention Citizens United. We've seen what the first round brought -- a Congress hell-bent on depriving us of access to health care, oppressing women, and catering to their corporate masters. What will 2012 bring? And will we be willing to have our own "day of rage"?

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