Friday, April 01, 2005

A juggernaut of hope begun at home

We will be having our local elections next Tuesday. Most folks view this as no big thing, and turnout for local elections is consistently, notoriously low. Some cities have under ten percent of their voters make an appearance at the polls, when it comes time to choose mayors, city council members, school board members (and in some cases coroners and judges), and so on.

It’s bad enough when our nation’s presidential elections get only a third of all registered voters to come to the polls, but they’re not the guys who have the real effect on our lives and livelihoods. The closer you get to home, the more good or harm an elected official can do to you. These are the guys who decide what your kids are going to be doing in and out of school, how much your water bill will be, whether your trash will be picked up and when, and all those other minute details of living that Congress can’t be bothered with, but which, ultimately, are what make your life what it is. And so, please bear this in mind as you pay your local bills. In City Hall, you very often get what you ask for.

What I am asking for is that everybody get up out of your chairs, next Tuesday, and vote for the best. I won’t tell you who that is. My choice is my own, and what is good for me may not be good for a married couple with small children, for example (although, in my humble opinion, I DO know best). This election is the most fundamental of all our elections, and I wish for everybody to appreciate the power this quaint little tradition has.

There are people in this world, right now, who are risking their lives to gain the right to choose. In the former Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan, Ingush, Belarus, and North Ossetia (where Beslan is located), in Mongolia, in Lebanon, Bahrain, Zimbabwe, and Iran, the people have flooded the streets of their capital cities -- and in many cases, all major cities -- demanding democracy and/or democratic reforms so that their voices might be heard. Demonstrations have been taking place regularly, too, in Taiwan, pleading for peaceful, democratic independence from China.

In all these places, the danger is beyond measure. In Minsk, Belarus, the police broke up one peaceful rally by putting a number of the activists in the hospital with “brain injuries”, and subsequently hauled them out of their hospital beds in order for them to stand trial alongside their compatriots. Many leaders of the party opposing the current leader have been imprisoned already. Nevertheless, protests are scheduled again for this weekend. In Tehran, Iran, last Friday, fans of the national soccer team were set upon after the game as they exited the stadium singing a nationalist hymn proscribed by the mullahs. Six students died, more than forty others were injured. They promised rallies this weekend and beyond, many more and much larger challenges to the mullahcracy. In Zimbabwe, the people are watching Mugabe illegally use government funds to buy votes, hand pick his election judges, and jail opposition leaders. The streets of Harare are still filled with demonstrations for democratic change, for an end to the corrupt government. In Kyrgyzstan, the protesters have already brought about a change in regime by taking over the Kyrgyz “White House” in Bishkek, and new legislative elections are scheduled to follow the presidential election, forced by their “tulip revolution”. Mongolians, heartened by their neighbors in Kyrgyzstan, have begun marching on Ulaanbaatar (commonly called Ulan Bator), to demand reforms and democracy. In North Ossetia, a group calling itself the “Committee of Beslan Mothers” has joined forces with other protesters, to demand reforms in their own government.

Up in the Himalayas, Bhutan’s king announced the end of his absolute reign and made public a constitution to support a multipartisan democratic government. He needed -- and had -- no demonstrations within his own country. It would seem he simply saw the writing on the wall.

In turn, Ukraine and Georgia (not the one with the famous peaches) have offered to share their tips on having successful revolutions. Albania, choosing to demonstrate its support for incipient democracies, has sent 50 fresh, well-trained troops to support the efforts against terrorist “insurgents” in Iraq. According to a letter from their Prime Minister Fatos Nano to President Bush, "We Albanians are a nation of freedom fighters who know something about living under oppression. That is why we wholeheartedly support the American-led effort to free the people of Iraq.”

The clearest path to freedom is by way of democracy. Democracy , in turn, is a living, ever growing thing, built upon hope. It needs faithful attention, first, so that it can be born, and then more, in order to thrive. It is getting a lot of that attention, overseas, at long last. Let us see to it that it receives comparable attention here at home.

No April Fooling.

For further reading on the rapid changes abroad, I recommend Gateway Pundit, Chrenkoff, Regime Change Iran, and Instapundit as good places to start.

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