On the John
Originally published on the readjack.com blog, June 18, 2009, 4:57 AM
If you have been following the news these days, you can easily see Mr Karroubi and Mousavi’s supporters aren’t being violent or aggressive at all! But then they officially killed 8 people from us in Azady (Liberty) Square in Tehran. Some other resources tells us 16 person but we just have nothing to prove it. Millions of people come out to the streets to echo their voices to the world and tell to Mr Ahmadinejad that those he called savage and violent are his troops and the revolutionary guard and himself, Not us!
In the early morning hours of June 15th, basketball fans in Los Angeles were in the streets celebrating the Lakers championship by breaking things and stomping cars, thus provoking the ire of working police.
Meanwhile, citizens in Iran were in the streets protesting their presidential election result by holding signs and probably shouting, thus provoking the ire of warring police who, in turn, broke bones and stomped bodies.
Not to suggest that sports have no value. I certainly don’t believe that. I watched every minute of the NBA Finals, and while those police cars were being smashed and stores looted, I was in the midst of writing a 2500 word essay on Kobe Bryant.
And then, yesterday, Iranian soccer players wore green protest wristbands during a World Cup qualifying match against South Korea. Those players were not in the street with their countrymen and women. Instead, their wristband protest was their way of standing with those being clubbed and fired upon. At the same time, I would imagine that the blows taken in the street were softened just that much by the strength and inspiration gained from the support of their soccer (OK…football) team.
You do what you can. During the past few days, I have gained contact with many Iranians, some of whom are doing what they can in their home country, some of whom are doing what they can from afar. I am confident that the ones in Germany, in California, in Toronto, all of them would be in the streets of Tehran with their brothers and sisters, ready to absorb a billy club or worse if only they were in country. Instead, they spread the word, follow the story, pray for the safety of fellow Iranians. And the ones in the streets, the ones who have been attacked and beaten and even murdered, I am confident they stand out there for everyone who can’t.
These days everybody scare to tell other that they are part of it. They scared of what happen to the other?
I have 5 month son. That’s why I am not going out but I share information and tell people story. My dad went for hair cut in vali asr street. One of these violent that they call them (basigi) passing through one girl and people burned his motorcycle. When my dad arrived he was shocked.
The people on facebook were eager to share. It did not take much. “I am a writer from America,” I told them. “I am interested in hearing your experience.” Since Monday, they have sent me their stories, sent me their pictures. They have directed me towards the best sites and most important videos. Five years ago we would have followed the story through the standard media outlets. Now we have access to first-hand video, first-hand photos, first-hand accounts.
Most spectacularly, though, and most historically significant is that we have access to each other.
It is no small miracle that individuals around the world can now connect. We don’t need our governments to do it. We are our own ambassadors. Our coming together is no longer limited to the Olympics or war.
It has now been widely reported that twitter, facebook, blogs, and other social networking sites have provided the link between Iran and the rest of the world. This would have been the case even if Iran had not banned foreign journalists from covering the proceedings. Now we are all we have, and really, all we need.
The storm figures to intensify before it settles. The rioting is expected to be worse during the next 24 hours. The strife between police and people, worse. I do not know what will happen over the next few days. But I do know that whatever it is, it will be seen. It will be heard. It will be felt the world round.
In 1968, it was easy to get the word out from a big American city like Chicago. 41 years later, we have even stronger capabilities to get it out in Tehran.
The whole world is watching?
You’re god damn right.
This is a coup against Iranian people. We are SOOOO angry. We absolutely don’t accept this mad & liar man as a president. I don’t feel secure and I afraid of future of Iran. We just try to change this situation. Iranian people just want to plea truth. We just protest logically, But the military forces attract us. They break the banks and shop glasses and light fires, and call us seditions. I wrote this thinks because I’m just worry about Iran and my family and my friends.
Still, writing is just writing. Just words on a page. While some of my new “friends” were watching their loved ones beaten by police, I was on my couch eating Harold’s chicken and “checking up on things.” I have made an impact. I am not shortchanging myself or anyone else who has used the internet to spread the word and create unity. But man…those people are being clubbed! I thought. They’re being shot! They’re being killed! And I’m sitting on the fucking couch eating chicken!
That’s how it feels. Borderline useless. Almost helpless. How can you help feeling that way?
What’s funny is how truly noble and important sites like facebook, twitter, and youtube have become. Once upon a time, facebook was college kids posting pictures of Wednesday night power hours. Until yesterday, twitter was the site I avoided joining because, “I’ve seen people on cocaine and I’ve seen people on twitter. They look about the same, and neither looks fun.” And of course youtube was the ultimate time-wasting destination, the only place where one could watch Game 5 of the Bulls-Knicks series from ’93 (the Charles Smith game) in 12 six-minute parts, if one were so inclined.
Now facebook is for discussing matters with the people of Iran, twitter for the mobile sharing of protest developments, youtube for seeing it all unfold from the eyes of those who are there.
Much has been made of President Obama’s decision to remain neutral. I understand his decision. It seems he is interested in changing the way the world views us. As such, he probably wishes to avoid the “world police” stigma. Besides, when it comes to voter fraud, a world leader openly accusing the leaders of another nation of having stolen an election before any definitive proof is available would set a dangerous precedent. You may think it is his responsibility to announce his allegiance, but I see why he cannot, of yet, do this.
And that leaves us with the responsibility to take sides. How exciting is that?
What they did is outrages evident to how AN was not the elected president of our country. Supporting our brothers and sisters in Iran we are also protesting in front of the embassy and asking EU and Dutch Government not to recognize him as the elected president. Everyone I know wishes he/she was back in Tehran to join our people in the street to fight for our right and specially for our VOTE.
On this past January 20th I was in Washington D.C., my toes frozen and my soul warmed as I stood packed in a crowd at the Inauguration, all of us together listening to our new President. Two million Americans at least made the trip to our nation’s capital, and of all the memories and emotions I will never forget, the one that stands the strongest is being a part of that group. People from all of the country, from all over the world, brought together by one man, one leader, one symbol, one movement. No matter the reason you voted Barack, the result was the same: 70 million people, two million in Washington, all of us united.
January of 2009 was a celebration, one of the best I’ve ever seen. It is not easy to get that many people in line together. It was historic and commendable.
Now we have a new challenge, because coming out for celebration is easy. Coming out for a fight—that’s the tricky part.
Here in America, the idea of a stolen election is nothing new. Many citizens suspect that the Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were falsified to some degree. Some are certain. After the Supreme Court named Bush victorious in December of 2000, and after he was named victorious once more in 2004, many of us were mad. Yet few of us took action. Instead, it was back to the couch, back to the internet, back to youtube videos and facebook photos.
What should we do? What should we do today?
I’m not sure. I just know that I cannot sit inside while fellow humans are denied their rights on such a terrible scale. Let me be clear: for me, this is not about Mousavi vs. Ahmadinejad. I am not a Mousavi supporter as I do not know his policies. Hell, I’m still learning the nitty-gritty of where Obama stands. It would be silly to pretend I have a grasp on the political standing of Mr. Mousavi.
This is also not about voter fraud, because frankly, I don’t know what happened. Not really. Not for certain. To protest an unproven voter fraud would be irresponsible, I think.
But I do know this: those people are being beaten out there. They are being arrested. They are being killed. The police and the military—the very authorities sworn to protect—are attacking and violently abusing citizens. And that I cannot accept.
As such, I will be heading down to Daley Plaza and probably the Thompson Center this Sunday (June 21st) to stand, quite literally, beside the people of Iran. Not for political reasons. For human reasons. I am going to stand up and be seen. That’s it. That’s my plan. In doing so, my hope is that others will see me and choose to stand with me, and that our group will be seen by every camera available, and that we will give other non-Iranians the courage or the nudge or whatever they need to stand and be seen themselves. And maybe if enough of us stand up, our President will feel better about standing as well, knowing that he has the people behind him.
I will keep my ears open for better-organized and better-populated protests. I read that 250 of Chicago’s Iranian population protested on Tuesday; should I hear of another such gathering, I will surely join it. Otherwise, I will be in the Loop, peacefully supporting the people of Iran in the face of police and military brutality.
Those two million people at the Inauguration were a group filled with victory. Standing out there that January day, or watching on television, we had the feeling of unity through a shared power. That power comes with responsibility. This is bigger than Obama-McCain, but for my fellow Barack voters, it’s put up or shut up. You want to talk about change we can believe in? Here it is. An opportunity to put our bodies where are votes are. It is time to stand up, if for no other reason than standing up in public is better than sitting on the couch in private.
Along with that, I am going to continue using facebook to encourage people to join my Chicago protest, and truthfully, I am going to feel a little bit like a knob in doing so. Always there is the nagging instinct: “Aren’t you being a bit over the top and melodramatic? They are in Iran. You are in America. Don’t get cocky. And come on…facebook? Facebook doesn’t solve anything. Go write a column, prepare for teaching next week, buy someone a sandwich, cheer up a friend, visit your parents, do some reading, play some softball. Stop playing do-gooder. Focus on your own life. Focus on your own country. We have plenty of problems. It is not going to do you or anyone else any good to spend a day or two standing in Chicago. Not you. Not Iran. Not anyone. Get over yourself.”
This is a common instinct. I am going to do my best to ignore it.
I hope you do too.
Copyright 2009, jm silverstein
June 20, 2009 update, 5:02 am
As I stated in this column, if I find a “better-organized and better-populated” protest, I will attend that instead, and promote it as well. This is the case: later today (Saturday the 20th), from 4 to 6 pm in Daley Plaza, a protest is already planned. I will be there, and not standing on Sunday as I originally stated in the column. Here is more information.