As many of you, I have been completely and totally engrossed by the uprising in Iran. Even while hiking in the Rockies this weekend I was refreshing Huffington and the Daily Dish on my smartphone for any small tidbit of new information (I usually roll my eyes at people who take their cell phones hiking, so this was a big deal for me).
Whenever revolution occurs a number of commonalities are observed. First among them, both the participants and observers look for a historical analogy. They say that “this is just like the [insert famous rebellion here].” This step is crucial because history is a river and it is much easier to play your part when you believe that you are a parcel of its inexorable flow and not a fish swimming against the current. This knowledge also makes it easier to accept the loss of loved ones. Although perhaps only slightly easier. This has all happened before. Gandhi–>MLK–>some how end up leading to Mousavi in the eyes of many. How true it is won’t matter until much later. Second, when revolution occurs it is the actions of individuals that shape the arc of the final story. The opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi was no liberal. An Iran under him might have been only slightly different than the one under Ahmadinejad. More than likely though we will never know what the “old Mousavi” would have done in office. That person is gone, having been transformed by the wave upon which he now rides to an unknown shore. He, and the student organizers that are silently shepherding the movement through word-of-mouth have cast their die, much as the founding fathers in our own revolution. I love this one quote by Benjamin Harrison of Virginia to Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts right before our Declaration of Independence:
“I will have a great advantage over you, Mr. Gerry, when we are all hung for what we are now doing. From the size and weight of my body I shall die in a few minutes, but from the lightness of your body you will dance in the air an hour or two before you are dead.” [Link]
There is an old adage that says “Men make history,” not events. In this uprising I believe it will the women who make history. Iran has many women like these, and many more individual stories will arise:
I also know that Iran’s women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I’ve seen them urging less courageous men on. I’ve seen them get beaten and return to the fray. “Why are you sitting there?”one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. “Get up! Get up!”… [Link]
This rebellion is in many ways in keeping with Gandhi’s teachings. That has been incredibly refreshing since many people only associate the peoples of Muslim countries with indiscriminate violence. This rebellion stresses strength in numbers, total belief in a just cause, and that it is more brave to suffer for your cause than to inflict pain on another for it. When a Basij member (one of the government’s goons) is injured, some of the very protestors he is sent to beat end up shielding him from a mortal blow by others (see the treatment of a riot police officer in this video). And the howling of “Allah o Akbar” in protest from the rooftops at night seems straight out of a Rumi poem.
Like the struggle Gandhi led I believe this one will take time, maybe much longer than it might seem right now. The people are the turtle and the regime is the hare. The people know they have already won. It feels comforting to witness, despite the inevitable loss of innocent life, because the struggle for freedom is a universally satisfying story.