When you have lived a long time through what is termed historical moments, you begin to see patterns at work that repeat themselves ad nauseam. Been there. Saw that.
The scenario is normally played outdoors in a symbolic square or sacred area in some foreign country. It follows the same narrative line. Angry people, mostly young, erupt in a hysterical display of passionate frustration that often leads to violence.
We know in our gut that they do indeed represent the disenfranchised, the impoverished and the ignored. The villain, the target of their rage, is usually an entrenched leader or group that has been in power for decades.
Suddenly the media, and now the blogosphere in search of eyeballs and readers, come to life in a burst of sanctimonious chest beating, and in the safety of distance joining the fray and through ringing prose, ally themselves with the passionate protesters. Loaded words like dignity, justice, equality, fairness, decency and freedom punctuate the heated rants.
Politicians, ever on alert for voter support and pandering to prevailing opinion, join the fray seeking recognition of their self-righteous stand on sweeping away those thuggish dictators and oppressors that they had supported for years. After all, who is not on the side of freedom, dignity, equality and human rights, especially if someone puts a camera or microphone in one’s face?
Never mind that it has been the official policy of the United States to support and do business with these oppressors for decades before these various eruptions. One need not be a student of history to recall some examples of our relations with Germany under Hitler, the Philippines under Marcos, China, Iran under the Shah, Iraq under Saddam, and every single oppressive Arab nation from the Saudis on down, all of whom have been currently under various forms of dictatorship for years.
You could go around the continents in ten seconds and put the magnifying glass on Africa, South America and Asia and points north and south to truly understand the state of the world in which we live. Indeed, the earth is stained with the blood of the self-righteous, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Inevitably the tyrant will depart. His ill-gotten loot, systematically obtained through corruption and guile, will have already found its way into coffers usually in western banks. Someone or a group of someones will take his place and, at first, pay lip service to the idea of democracy. The exiled tyrant will live on his mountain of stolen gold, bitter and eventually forgotten.
Unless the path has been strewn with the rose petals of institutional democratic architecture it is in danger of getting little traction and the result will be yet another form of oppression. With luck, it is possible and there are some, not many, examples of eventual reform and a transition to a real democratic government. Will the original protesters be satisfied? As they say, hope spring eternal.
Nor is this little essay designed to cast aspersions on the political leadership of this country or the media and the vast army of bloviators and camp followers that pander to the winds of change based on the images we see on video and the quickly shifting sands of public opinion.
Like any running back dodging potential tacklers, our leadership, often blundering and heavy handed, has managed to keep our team in play for more than 200 odd years scoring a number of policy touchdowns. More often than not, we have won the day, the proof being our survival as a united nation, imperfect in so many ways, but still strong, still viable, still proud, still hopeful.
How we will survive the years ahead is anybody’s guess. Religious fanaticism and nuclear proliferation is a very unhealthy brew. Few if any of us has the magic formula to keep us safe and free. Indeed, we feel for those who live in the dark world of oppression and poverty.
Our earthly ballroom is filled with predators. If we appear to be dancing with the devil at times, we sense that we will always be looking out for better less clumsy and more agile partners. But the objective, as always, is to keep on dancing, no matter what.