Headline in the local paper this morning was no real surprise. The insurgency in Iraq is being replaced by ethnic cleansing and anarchy. The headline read something like Anarchy replacing liberty, something like that. Duh! I’ve blogged on this before.
Liberty, freedom, and democracy are not stored in jars on a shelf in a store. You can’t go to the market down the street and order it by the pound. The American Revolution didn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s too bad that more English history isn’t taught in American schools because I believe that the revolution this side of the water was a logical outcome of the Civil War in England that helped establish Parliament as an equal to the Monarchy and the so called Glorious Revolution in the 1680’s that basically made Parliament the senior member in the Parliament/Monarchy partnership.
I love the movie 1776, but I think the writers have the history just a little bit wrong. The actual taxes Parliament tried to impose were only part of the problem. The big part of the problem was that the taxes were imposed without the colonies having a chance to send representatives to Parliament to tell their side of story and add their votes to the other members. Parliament said “you’re colonies, you don’t get a vote.” The colonists said “we’re Englishmen/women, yes we do.”
Add in “yeah, we know the French and the Spanish are the bad guys to you, but they want to buy what we want to sell without sending it to England first so it isn’t exactly smuggling” and “we can make our own shovels and horseshoes, we don’t need to order them and wait at least three months to get them, thank you very much,” and “we’ve been looking after our local business pretty well, in our opinion, for over a century, butt out” to the fuel under the kettle and it was bound to boil over.
Our revolution was the outcome of several hundred years of politicking, arguing, shouting and fighting between people, monarchy and parliament. And we sure as heck haven’t perfected it yet. At the moment we’re watching out liberties erode little by little because too many of us are scared to death that something bad might happen. Well, something bad will happen if we end up with the thought police knocking on the door wanting to check out your library or your computer. We’re a hell of a lot safer than the average Iraqi. We’re in no position to tell men, women and children that are in a war zone to trust the system and it’ll all work out.
I sincerely hope that it doesn’t take Iraq as long as it’s taking us. There’s no rule that says how long it takes for a country to learn how to handle a representative government. And there’s no rule that says only Europeans are smart enough or have the background to make it work. But you can’t do it when your citizens are scared shitless to vote, stand for election, join the army, join the police, or even walk down the street. That so many of them find the courage to participate is a credit to their courage, not ours.
When parents don’t know how they’re going to put food on the table democracy is going to come a distant second. If students have to take the city bus to school for exams, they aren’t going to go if they’re afraid gunmen from the other side are going to show up and basically say “Shiites to the left, Sunnis to the right.” (or vice versa) Democracy is going to be the farthest thing from their minds. When your kids are dying, all most people want if for it to stop and they'll follow who ever promises to make it stop. And they won't stop to ask whether it's ok with the US first.
Yeah, I know we broke it, we have to help fix it. Frankly, I have absolutely no idea how we’re going to get out of this mess. And I haven't heard anyone who is up for election this fall with any good ideas either