“This may be the Generation that will have to face the End of the World.”
- U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1985)
“The news is bad today in America and for America. There is nothing good or hopeful about it... and it is getting worse and worse in logarithmic progressions...”
- Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2002)
The last two weeks have been big. First, a revolution in Tahrir Square, then people took to the streets in Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, Syria, and even Iraq. As of this writing, there are large, violent protests unfolding throughout Libya. Muammar Gaddafi is so threatened by what these protests represent that he’s ordered military jet fighters to fire onto the Libyans. But there is no turning back, activists across the Middle East want their stories heard and they will not be silenced until this happens. The Arabs are tired of bad decisions being made by the same-old autocratic regimes that have stubbornly held onto power for decades. Indeed, change has come to the Middle East. The people have proven they will not be bought by the same old systems of power for one second more. As one protester said, “There was no turning back after we broke through that wall of fear.”
Mubarak was toppled, but the military is still in place. Now, Egyptians must show how they plan to move forward. (Assuming the military hasn’t already essentially done so for them?) Yes, many wonder, who will be the next “leader”? Others question whether there needs to even be a leader at all? Whatever your take on the revolution unfolding in the Middle East, rest-assured, international leaders are not standing idle; especially, the United States. Which was (as indicated by this, conveniently, de-classified report) already planning for such possibilities, years ago. Not surprising, frustration and anger has been simmering here for a long time; but now that this anger has surfaced, the US wants to ensure it has always been standing on the side of the “freedom loving people around the world.” Remember, history is about who wins.
Arguably, the media seems to be delegitimizing the locality of these popular movements by replacing years of anger with the friendly face of a globalized social network. Undoubtedly, social networking sites played a key role in organizing and mobilizing the tens of thousands that took to the streets. As with any revolution, media and information play a pivotal role in making people more politically aware. However, it was not only a media revolution. Media can only do so much. Media connects people and communicates information, but it cannot keep people standing in the street for days. Only a people’s will and courage can stand strong against the brutality of power.
This past week, Americans have also gathered in Madison, Wisconsin. Admittedly, for entirely different grievances; but nevertheless, it is refreshing to see people occupying their statehouse and standing-up to a corrupt government. From Tahrir Square to the Capital of Wisconsin - people are proving they do have power. Americans should take notice. After all, those in Tahrir Square, presumably, fought for what those in Wisconsin argue they already have - democracy. So... prove it. Accordingly, demanding accountability from our government should never be labelled “unpatriotic.”
When the government makes bad decisions, people must stand-up. Gov. Scott Walker (R) is making a bad decision and the people know it. Walker insists he must restrict the collective bargaining rights for public employees (teachers, firefighters, nurses, police officers, etc.) so as to alleviate the state’s growing $3.6 billion dollar deficit. Perhaps the people would have bought Gov. Walker’s bullshit if Walker hadn’t already approved millions of dollars in tax breaks for corporations? No, Gov. Walker has shown -like many elected officials- where his true allegiance resides -with the corporation.
Tom Morello, musician and activists, recently told the Colbuffington Repost, "I really think that the future of the rights of working people in this country is not going to be decided in the courts," Morello continued, "It's not going to be decided in Congress or radio talk shows. The future of rights of working people in this country will be the fight on the streets of Madison, Wis.”
Morello went on to read a letter of solidarity from one of the protest organizers in Cairo, Maor Eletreb. Eletreb wrote, "Justice is beautiful, but justice is never free. The beauty of Tahrir Square you can have everywhere, on any corner, in any city, or in your heart. So hold on tightly and don't let go. ... Breathe deep, Wisconsin, because justice is in the air. And may the spirit of Tahrir Square be in every beating heart in Madison today."
But I wonder, what will happen if those in Wisconsin don’t get what they want? Will they too have the same discipline, passion, and bravery as those who fought in Tahrir Square? Or, as those who continue to clash with police in Libya? Will the American people buckle under the pressure?
Something tells me the Americans could never take their revolution that far. The first sign of tear gas or a concussion grenade in Wisconsin, will have the people running. Of course, this may just provide the right amount of provocation Americans need for a re-revolution. After all, Americans are notoriously “lazy”, “apathetic”, and “jaded”. So, unless the government starts also taking away our entertainment and cheap consumer goods, (while it continues to cut education and public services) then there may be no hope. But history rolls on ...right? Just maybe, the American people still have some fight left in them? I guess we’ll see...
Unsurprisingly, the Obama Administration continues to politically tightrope walk it’s way through each of these heavy situations. In Egypt, we heard no solid support for the protesters in Tahrir Square until after the streets had been swept by those who won the battle. Sure, there was some pandering and empty gestures of a “peaceful transition to democracy.” But imagine the total amazement of the world, if Obama had decided to just show-up and stand there in the square beside Mohamed ElBaradei and/or Wael Ghonim to give a big “thumbs-up” for the cameras?
I know, I know... this is one of (admittedly) many reasons why I’m not working at The White House. Understandably, there are many geopolitical reasons for President Obama’s ass-kissing. Like any good American President, you gotta’ be able to suck-it and smile. Sure, the President can say he has a lot of reasons behind not going, but none of them are very good. Accordingly, Obama (forever the centrists) has also taken-up a very similar position with those protesting in Wisconsin. Sure, he supports the protesters; but why not take it one step further? Imagine the energy that could be created if Obama made an appearance in Wisconsin?
Instead, Obama flew right over protesters standing out in the bitter Wisconsin cold, to land in Silicon Value and have lunch with America’s real engine of innovation. Yes, “We must win the future!” And apparently, winning this future means doing so with the CEOs of Netflix, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter.
What message does this communicate to America and the world? ....Let's be friends?