In his powerful election night acceptance speech, President Barack Obama announced, “[I]t’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.” And this notion of “change” as something that occurs by a mere election sells easily to his adoring devotees. It readily fits modern American intolerance for delayed gratification.
Unfortunately, real “change” is not magical. It typically takes long periods of hard work, suffering, setbacks, step by step advancement until some “tipping point” opens up. And this “change” is what we are seeing manifest in the streets of Tehran today.
Following the Iranian presidential election in which the large margin cited for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over apparent victor Mir Hossein Mousavi suspiciously suggested fraud, protests began to flare up. While many Iranian dissident sympathizers held out great hopes for the opening the Islamic Republic regime had seemed to create, most of the American liberal press had made up its mind that it was too difficult to mount any credible opposition to the overwhelming power the regime has secured for itself. Rigged elections were a staple for Iran – mostly through restricting the candidates in the first place but, if need be, through voter count.
This attitude mirrored that emanating from the White House’s lack of any meaningful response. Obama’s meager contribution was to articulate a State Department-esque fear that if America was to be seen as “meddling” in the internal affairs of Iran, Ahmadinejad would use that fact against America and set back Obama’s high hopes for a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear weapons advance. (Ahmadinejad had never previously had difficulty generating an excuse to delay any negotiations and nor would the Iranian people such an excuse).
Soon thereafter, the protests continued to be sketched in terms of an election dispute. Obama then suggested that there really was little difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. After all, Mousavi’s past was well steeped in Khomenei Revolutionary affairs and he certainly shares Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambitions having, himself, helped father Iran’s nuclear efforts. In this sense, Obama was correct. If Obama’s concept of “diplomacy” is al that is available, it is likely that the Mousavi of June 12th would have presented a similar face to the table as Ahmadinejad. Yet, in staying focused upon his own ego-centric vision of future diplomatic efforts, Obama fails to take advantage of a much more promising opening.
The protests have subsequently continued, provoking violent responses from the regime. Despite the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s charge that the election results were final and that any continued protest would be met with a strong hand, the people have continued to demonstrate and with extreme courage. Accordingly, the American press is beginning to retreat from the initial Obama view and question whether something bigger is occurring.
Something much bigger is occurring and it was not started by a rigged election. As brilliantly described in Amir Taheri’s The Persian Night, the Khomenei Revolution fortified itself through occupying two functions which it used interchangeably as needed. It asserted itself as a revolutionary force holding a unique brand of Islam out as its guide. At the same time it established parallel state functions in order to perform certain national and international functions. This dual role for the most part helped it accomplish a variety of goals, not the least of which has been its march towards becoming a nuclear power.
A similar duality is occurring with today’s protesting force. Utilizing an election dispute to give it credibility – a state functionality – this protest is the next step, perhaps a tipping step, in what has been a long hard slog among the Iranian peoples for decades. This is a new revolution hoisting the remnants of the Khomenei revolution on their own petards.
And what will prove to be the defining element in this historic time is the march of women. Women are out in the streets. Women such as Neda are to be the martyrs and faces of this effort. Fortuitously, the film version of The Stoning Of Soraya M is entering theatrical exhibition right at this time which will only help project the transforming role of women that will emerge from these events.
And as many have begun to see, this has never been about Mousavi. As many e-mails from various Iranian towns have suggested, Mousavi was merely a launch pad from which to project the desires of so many Iranians to have greater freedom in their lives. If anything, it is Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a revolutionary figurehead herself, who will emerge to give critical voice to the rights of women so desperately sought in Iran.
The American press, in buying the notion that any American interference will be used by the regime against America, has been, in fact, very insulting to the Iranian people. This suggests that the people are unable themselves to sort out their own desires for freedom and balance them with whatever Islamic influence they require. It assumes that they will believe whatever the regime tells them.
The recent events tell a very different tale. For years, the Iranian people (to the extent that any singular description has validity) have not only aspired to America but have been developing the courage to take their freedoms and rights into their own hands. Irrespective of what their leaders have told them, they have seen the effects (with all of its many flaws and failures) of George W. Bush’s freedom agenda elsewhere in the Middle East, including with their neighbor Iraq, as imperfect as it is. Mostly, they have seen women empowered globally and want more of it for themselves.
They have suffered greatly as well as; dissidents have been brutally treated for years. They have experimented with “reformists” only to feel betrayed. They have watched as America and other Western nations gave lip service to assisting internal regime change only to be betrayed again. And when Obama gave great comfort to the regime that America did not intend to replicate the Mossadeq affair and that America respected the right of any nation to have nuclear power, they realized they were on their own.
orge Bush spoke frequently to the Iranian people about the fight for freedom and the universal yearning each soul has for it. He led American soldiers into battle in order to open up a wound so that the blood of tyranny can first be painfully drained. His vision embodied true “change” and he was willing to stand by his call in the midst of a demeaning American press, a sabotaging State Department, and a liberal populace that had no patience for what is required of real “change” but which, instead, prefers the change that occurs from simply voting in a man practiced to convince them that the monumental can occur as easily as pushing a remote control.
The reluctance, resistance, and tardiness in understanding the transformative nature of these events are more of a comment on Obama Americans than on Iran. Obama remains virtually silent, failing to give any strong showing of support. The Obama “change” culture is, perhaps, still too enthralled with the visuals of change as a substitute for the long hard slog required to produce change.
And where are the voices of American women’s rights movements? Once again, when faced with real battles over real women’s rights, many of these prominent American women become little girls! As Taheri describes, the earlier attempts at “reform” were aimed at changes to the State functions. The roles women are playing in these protests are in direct confrontation with the Khomeini Revolution itself. In Iran, this takes true courage and fortitude. In America, Roe v. Wade is much less threatening than Sharia Law.
Able today to evaluate more of Obama’s actions rather than his words, many Americans are beginning to see Obama’s clay feet; that he represents more of the same rather than any true change. What was sold is very different than what America thought it was buying. The Iranian people are reminding the American people of the courage, determination, vision, and sacrifice truly required over decades to ensure that real “change” occurs. America ought to be thankful and offer its assistance in return.