Change in the Mideast

“The revolution will be televised…
Push peace and keep it in motion” – Gorillaz featuring Snoop, Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach

What has happened in Egypt and what is happening in Wisconsin is amazing.  It’s important to remember that, as powerful as the protests in Wisconsin are, people are not being shot in the streets of Madison.  We might sometimes forget or take it for granted, but we don’t have to take to the streets for our basic rights.

People are angry and restive and demonstrating across the Mideast.  Led by youth, the streets in Libya, Bahrain, Jordan, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Kuwait, and Djibouti are full.  The Governments don’t like it.  They are not pleased with their people agitating for their rights.  They do not want self-determination for their people.  So they are using their power.  They are attacking.  People are dying.  They are unarmed and security forces are shooting and beating people.  They are using American made tear gas in attempt to cow supporters into submission.  Hospitals are overwhelmed in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet.  People are dying, but they are not backing down.  People are dying for their rights.

These are historic events.  We don’t know what’s going to happen.  We’re not sure if the new Egypt is going to be friendly to our interests anymore, democracy is messy.  We have no idea if any of these opposition movements will succeed.  All we know is that people across a region that has been ruled by kings, sultans, sheiks, and tin pot dictators are demanding change.  We need to stand behind and with those people.

What has been most eye-opening about the past two months in the Mid-East is the light that has been shined on our tacit support of strong-arm leaders in the region.  We need Egypt, so we needed Mubarak in place because we’re not sure another government will allow us priority in the Suez Canal.  The Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain.  We need their permission to keep the base there.  How likely are we to rock the boat?  We should.  Today, the Army fired anti-aircraft guns at protesters.  We lease the base, we supply weapons – this is being done with our money and weapons.

The reasons are varied.  In Iran, protesters want a more secular government.  In Bahrain and Yemen it’s more political power and economic opportunity.  In Libya it’s an end to the 41 year rule of Colonel Gaddafi, who the New York Times called “idiosyncratic“.  There is a common theme – self-determination.  We feel this anger every time an election doesn;t go our way.  Or whenever a new policy is put in place that we disagree with.  The difference is, we know that we get to try again in two years.  These people across the Mideast are fighting for the rights that we’ve had since the inception of this country.  It’s time for us to stand up and make sure that their voices are heard.  When they can’t get to an internet connection, we need to.  When they can’t make a phone call, we need to.  We need to support their struggle for self-determination – whatever the outcome may be.

Pic Via | Photo Credit – Hasan Jamali, AP

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