New Brooms

Here is a metaphor to delight a storyteller’s heart: a new broom sweeps clean. Egypt, as we all know, has been full of new brooms as its youth rose up to sweep away a thirty year-old dictatorship. Revolution is a modern story, one to which we can supply a few anxious beginnings and tragic endings. Egypt offers something more hopeful, a refreshing plot twist. Its new brooms became literal as the revolutionaries who’d occupied Cairo’s Tahrir Square for over two weeks returned with brooms, dustpans and washbuckets to clean up after themselves.

This is a new story line for humankind. There is no record of French revolutionaries, Russian Bolsheviks or the Iranian Islamists heading back to the sites of their triumphs with brooms and buckets. Guillotines, maybe, or AK-47s. But in Egypt, young men and women swept streets, painted fences, washed away graffitti and even planted bushes. One woman skipped work so that she could paint the square’s railing green. Another in a hijab kept sweeping alongside a sign which read: “Sorry for Disturbance. We Build Egypt.”

Are we dull-witted humans finally learning something? Cleaning up after ourselves? Not blowing anything up? We don’t know how this brave Egyptian story will end. Yet nothing can take away from what these triumphant young people have given humankind. Because of them, millions of us have witnessed the world’s first nonviolent revolution. It’s possible; it can be done; it has been done. Kudos to Facebook and to all that connects us. History is tilting in a new direction.


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