Monday, June 22, 2009

Iran: The Crushing Significance of Little Things

That what was once, just before the election, a sign of hope, of genuine discussion and democracy, of exchange between two sides, the pro-Ahmedinijad side and the pro-Moussavi side, as reported by Joe Klein in Time, now has degenerated into a violent confrontation that threatens to undermine the very legitimacy of Iran's system of government - this is a study in the crushing significance of little things.

The Iranians weren't asking all that much: both sides simply want free and fair elections. The bugaboo here is not America's favorite whipping boy, Ahmedinejad, so much as it is the Ayatollah Khamanei, whose Friday speech changed the tone from possibly resolvable to totally insoluble conflict between two sides, framed by obvious lies about Iranian unity. By choosing the lie and forced violation of basic human rights, which is always a violation of a nation's sense of security, in this one speech, those few words, this apparently "small" moment of time has transformed a budding democracy into a totalitarian nightmare acting under the veneer of what had been its democracy. I do not believe this is the aim of Ahmedinejad, who has played the Robin Hood of Iran's underclasses whose more "fundamental" and fatalistic view of religion was a riveting political force and remains so. He actually accomplished some "democratizing" things during his mixed-record tenure. But it is the crackdown and the grip on power evidenced by Khamanei that has unleashed the Basij and other paramilitary/police forces as arms of brutal totalitarian acts of violence and suppression that has brought the world's condemnation and horror at what has happened to Iran.

This is particularly weird when viewed in the light of who the opposition is: Moussavi was a trusted aide of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, father of the Islamic Republic. Khamanei appears to have reached the egotistical point of seeing anyone who appears to threaten his perceived "divine" grip on power as Enemy, and hence he has become more than what his title has previously entailed. He has become, as Supreme Leader, Iran's de facto dictator, with Ahmedinejad as his politically savvy enabler/front man. I hope this situation will change, but it appears to be getting worse.

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