Wasn't it a good day for opponents of religious radicalism when the Muslim Brotherhood took power in Egypt? It needed to be given a chance to lead so that its inability to do so might be exposed. A small dose of disease is an effective antidote. In this way an organism recognizes a foreign and destructive element.

But champions of liberal democracy in Egypt should be cautious. An administration of progressive technocrats will be handicapped by the same demographics that hobbled the Muslim Brotherhood this past year: a country of 84 million, half of whom diametrically -- even theologically -- oppose their leadership.

If liberal leadership is able to consolidate and weather the storms of protest now blowing through the country, how can they expect to partner with an uncooperative populace to make meaningful change? Will the people also reject this newest brand of rule as a foreign and destructive element in the Egyptian organism? Is the left now also being given its chance to lead so that its inability to do so might also be exposed?

One thing is sure: The rules of revolution are changing. The Internet is blowing wider than ever the sphere of accountability, with YouTube and Twitter becoming arguably more powerful than tanks and tear gas. Protest movements are not suppressed any longer with impunity; world opinion is watching, in high definition. One is reminded of the words of Victor Hugo, observer of the French growing pains that became the blueprint for future revolutions: "Conflicting ideas have human faces."


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We are watching the friction of visions in a bellwether culture of the Arab world. The entire region seems dizzy alongside Egypt, lying on a chaise longue and having a conversation with itself in an effort to untangle its own complex identity.

Competing voices claim for themselves the legitimacy of the real revolution, the mantle of God's mouthpiece. Street-level violence in Cairo and elsewhere in the Middle East is a byproduct of this subterranean contest of ideas.

In this month, when our country celebrates its own birthday, there is no room for historic myopia. The American Spring was inelegant too. Our citizens were restless, discontent and violent too.

Over the loud incantations of convenient national mythology we hear at this time of year, it can be difficult to hear the anguished voices of the 1770s. But they are there, carrying the same intensity of pain and fear as the voices we hear coming out of Egypt.

So let's be patient friends of this protracted Arab Spring and all its human faces. Egypt must be healed from below, from within. External health will follow. This takes time.

Yes, the stakes are high. They always have been. And only Don Quixote could expect smooth unity to emerge anytime soon from such a fracas.

Ryan Gregg is a resident of Brentwood.