Sunday, January 30, 2005

Bravo, Iraq!


BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iraq election log: 30 January 2005

I'm not going to be one of those liberal bloggers who grinch the Iraq election. If you want to get an earful of that, start here. There is no doubt that democracy is a good thing, and that the election is a good thing--most Iraqis certainly think so. Here are some links to blogs. Here's a site linking to some Kurdish blogs). And here's a good one from London, were Pakistani, Palestinian and Algerian Muslims tried to intimidate Iraqi ex-pats going to the polls.

It looks like voter turnout in Iraq is comparable to what we get in the US--where cities don't have to be locked down on election day. On the other hand I'm not overly optimistic. Democracy by itself doesn't fix violence, poverty, ignorance and bigotry. After the first blush of enthusiasm there will be more violence and grinding disappointment. But it will be worth it, I think, because democracy is a good thing that changes people's way of viewing the world and their place in it.

Bush, riding the crest of the wave, is on TV making noises about decent Iraqis' victory over the "thugs." I just hope it doesn't carry his domestic agenda through: "democracy is good, therefore we should privatize Social Security." Then again, Winston Churchill was booted out after WWII, and this animal is no Churchill.

But "thugs" they are, those angry young men we dignify as "insurgents." The recipe is always the same: where there's poverty, misery and oppression, there will be cadres of young men eager to do violence; they can be used by ideologues and by self-serving politicians. The fatal mistake is to imagine that they, the "Street," are the authentic voice of the people.

We played this scenario out 40 years ago when the received view was that the Black Panthers were the authentic voice of black Americans, that the NAACP had sold out, and that Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were Uncle Toms. (I'm proud to say that my name is inscribed on the Rosa Parks Wall of Tolerance maintained by the Southern Poverty Law Center--hit the link and contribute!). It plays out if we imagine that IRA "militants" are the authentic voice of the Irish people. It plays out whenever we reflexively take the position that whatever is countercultural is good and that the rhetoric of freedom, democracy and liberation is nothing more than a cover for racism and oppression.

How do we, as liberals, shake off the burden of this perennial adolescence, the rhetoric of revolution, radical chic and facile adolescent cynicism?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/259919.html

Thomas Frank writes about this in his essay, "Why Johnny can't dissent"...this atricle is good too...

H. E. said...

Good link--thanks! I may comment on this one in more detail. Frank is good, if a little long winded.

Anonymous said...

He could definitely use a good editor at times....

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