Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Two Revolutions

I remember, not all that well, but reasonably well, what it was like when the Berlin Wall came down. Everything changed, although I (being 13 at the time) couldn't really tell how, I knew there was a shift in, well everything. Later, while I was living in the Czech Republic, I asked my then girlfriend and her sister what it was like when the wall came down. They described feeling good, but it was nebulous to them as they were also pretty young.

But something that they said did stick with me, because it seemed so unusual and odd, something that I cannot imagine happening in the US. The day after the wall fell, every school in the country stopped their Russian classes. It seemed strange to me to stop a particular kind of education, especially because Russian is a useful language ... but Pavla's mother Hana explained that the Russian classes were an example of the way that the Soviet union had tried to control not just the country, but Czech society, and the end of classes was an example of that.

It is interesting that the shift in the Soviet Union began when Reagan started his own charm offensive, I still remember the words glasnost and perestroika, which represent the undercutting and collapse of an empire built on fear and anger. Many people are saying, perhaps rightly, that the shift in Iran is now occurring because of Obama's similarly open and charming speech in Cairo. And while I do not think that Iran has had the same effect on the world as the Soviet Union, I do think that Iran represents a country which has in the recent past used fear and anger, particularly against the US, to justify the failings of an theocratic dictatorship.

It seems, from what I have been reading, that the people of Iran, despite the apparent violence done to them by the government, are ready to move past the controlling, angry, fearful Iran of the last era. Perhaps they will reclaim their place on the world stage, as Persia has be a central playerin the world for much of the last two millenia. Or maybe they will lurch into another kind of failed government. Or maybe the current regime will triumph and Iran will become even more oppressive and ready to burst ... or maybe a combination of the above will happen and Iran will slowly move away from its current government, lurching around until it settles on something different. Whatever happens, I think that as we watch, listen to, read, tweet, and otherwise follow the happenings in Iran, we should not only send our wishes and prayers for a satisfactory and safe resolution of this conflict, but we should also be aware that we may be witnessing a fulcrum point in history.

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