The nation of 82 million has grown weary of 32 years under the yoke of President Hosni Mubarak, a regime that has not brought Egypt's economy and its increasingly well-educated middle class into the prospering world mainstream.
Nobody has a voice except the regime and its allies. The situation is not unique. It reflects history and the evolution of revolutions by people oppressed by tyrants.
The situation is complex because many of those protesting aren't dreaming about Jeffersonian democracy but a share of the power and a better deal.
Americans have a huge stake in an outcome that keeps Egypt stable and prevents the collapse of national structures that hold the overwhelmingly Muslim but secularist nation on an even keel with the U.S., the region, and other Western nations.
Egypt is not culturally monolithic. It has a sizable Coptic Orthodox Christian minority and other ethnic/religious groups with strong interests in the outcome in terms of governance.
Mubarak is viewed as somewhat accommodating to the Copts, but not necessarily friendly, but his attitude is not fully shared by the religious majority.
The chief Copt leader this week expressed concern about any succeeding government and its toleration of the church, which dates to 42 AD, in Alexandria.
In many ways the Egyptian situation mirrors other upheavals that began with the disintegration of European empires in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The replacement of regimes and empires doesn't always reflect some other nations' democratic ideals, nor do revolutions always produce freedom as the West knows it.
Howard Schweber, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin/Madison, wrote earlier this week that the best outcome in Egypt may be a military government that preserves the "cold peace" with Israel and keeps Islamists at great political distance.
The late Reinhold Niebuhr, an American Christian theologian from Missouri who understood the dynamics of world change, left an appropriate prayer for times of upheaval in his huge body of writing:
"We pray to you this day mindful of the sorry confusion of our world. Look with mercy upon this generation of your children so steeped in misery of their own contriving, so far strayed from your ways and so blinded by passions. We pray for the victims of tyranny, that they may resist oppression with courage and may preserve their integrity by a hope which defies the terror of the moment. We pray for wicked and cruel men, whose arrogance reveals to us what the sin of our hearts is like when it has conceived and brought forth its final fruit. O God, who resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, bring down the mighty from their seats."
We all should prayerfully hope for an outcome in Egypt that preserves both personal integrity and hope for all.