Yesterday, as I walked to Tahrir Square along the Kasr el-Nil Bridge, I met friends and acquaintances along the way, the same people who, like me, had been so moved by the revolution a year ago, and who had shunned the ugly confrontations in Tahrir since the divisiveness and the violence and the crackdowns started. There were so many people I recognized, famous writers, major businessmen, doctors, professors. An immense crowd, at least as big as February 4th, and the same spirit: determined but cheerful and peaceful. Men, women and children, a diverse crowd, from all walks of life, from the most privileged to the most underprivileged; many secular young liberals, many boys and girls of the original Face Book crowd. There was no violence, and no harassment of women, in spite of the dense crowd; in spite- or perhaps because- of the fact that there was nary a police or a military uniform in sight. The Muslim Brotherhood had announced it was taking charge of security, and apparently they were, but they kept a low profile; any checking of I.D.’s was rare and discreet.
As the afternoon wore on, the numbers swelled to outdo those of the heyday of the revolution. The main changes from a year ago were the chants of "Down with the rule of the Military!" instead of "Down with Mubarak!" Actually, the word used, "Askar," is closer to "Militia." There were huge posters of the martyrs of the military crackdown, and a gigantic obelisk with the names of the martyrs inscribed on it. Many of the protesters wore masks in the image of the martyrs, apparently inspired by the film Vendetta; one woman in a full face veil wore a mask of the cleric killed in the November protests. There were rumors that Baradei, the Nobel-Prize winning former presidential candidate, was about to make an appearance.
So is Egypt’s revolution today just a case of : “The King is dead!” “Down with the new King!”? One witty poster I saw a few weeks ago cynically proclaimed: “Down with the next president!”
But there have been real changes. The enthusiasm expressed at the ballot boxes, the excitement around the seating of the new parliament- even the 24-hour coverage of the parliamentary debates on TV, C-Span style- all add up to a sense of awe and pride in a new-found democracy, however flawed, however distorted by ignorance and illiteracy, however disappointing the election results to the liberal idealists who raised the flag of revolution in the first place. What’s changed in Egypt is the awareness of the possibility of change. “Yes we can.” “We’ve done it before, we can do it again.”