In the long comment thread which followed, my friend Tim Kyger cited a famous story about Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention. I'll quote the first online version I found:
The deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy. Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. The answer was provided immediately. A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, "A republic, if you can keep it."
Tim went on to say:
I hate to be the Burke of all this, but I don't see anything
but trading one for another (and I dearly hope I'm wrong).
But my prediction? One man, one vote -- one time.
History does indeed offer a preponderance of evidence in favor of skepticism, pessimism, and cynicism. Yet somehow humanity still manages to advance. It does so by ignoring all that horrible evidence and choosing hope instead. (That is how _we_ met Franklin's challenge.)
I have hope now that the predominantly young population of Egypt -- knowing much better than their parents and grandparents did how we live in the West -- fiercely want what we have in terms of liberty and opportunity to prosper. They won't willingly give up their chance for those.
If someone tries to hijack this wonderful, epic moment in the way Tim fears, I doubt they'll stand idly by. They've learned a precious lesson in the last few weeks and they won't forget it.