Pin It
Favorite

I've Seen This Movie Before: Student unrest from Middle America to the Middle East 

We students wait for word from the West. We know the mainstream media want our movement to fail, but our telephone service provider doesn't care

We students wait for word from the West. We know the mainstream media want our movement to fail, but our telephone service provider doesn't care one way or the other. Ring-ring. News: Students at a prestigious western university are on strike. The tide moves eastward; hours later, we learn of a massive demonstration at a campus half a country closer. The baton of uprising has been passed to us. Will we have the strength and unity to meet the challenge, knowing that our local reaction will shape the response of other students on other campuses further east?

I am not referring to the Iranian university students that I and so many other freedom-loving Americans have come to so immensely admire over the past week. Rather, I reference students at universities such as the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and at scores of other U. S. campuses more than 40 years ago, when my generation of American university students rose up against the same sort of oppressive power elite that our Iranian counterparts now confront. Images of the Iranians' bravery and determination against a potentially mass-murderously repressive power structure take me back to my own student days, a year before I went "Clean for Gene," nearly a year before January '68's Tet offensive, March '68's announcement of President Johnson's abdication, April's assassination of the Rev. Dr. King and on and on that apocalyptic year.


CNN recently quoted a professor of Iranian Studies at a prominent U. S. university. "I am absolutely convinced that what we are witnessing is a turning point in . . . history. Even if the [government] survives this crisis," said Dr. Hamid Dabashi, "it will no longer be as it used to be."

I've seen this movie before. This is exactly what we Americans in our own anti-government movement thought back then. The author of 1968 in America describes my generation's sense of events a few months later when the Tet offensive revealed to rank-and-file Americans what we students knew all along: that our governors had deceived us to the point of betrayal. Tet acted on Americans as "an immense magnetic field energizing the [government's] opponents and transforming the political landscape."

We knew our republic was founded to "provide for the common defense." But we also knew our government had squandered, and showed no sign of ceasing to squander, American lives and treasure on a war that did nothing to "provide for [our] common defense." Similarly, the Islamic Republic was founded to express the wishes of Iranians for a new type of democracy. But, similarly, the established power structure has betrayed the Iranian people. And, similarly, Iranian university students were among the first in their country to know it had.

I do wonder how much earlier we '60s "peaceniks" would have ended the war and how many more lives we would have saved if we would have had Twitter. But I beg you: Don't be distracted and lose sight of the political aims of the Iranian opposition in our typically American fascination with the technology they have so artfully "repurposed." Just as we lost once Johnson stepped aside and chaos overtook Chicago, the Iranian opposition could lose. Their movement could be co-opted by vague promises of a partial recount from "Boss" Khameni.

My lesson from my movement is this. I guarantee you: This moment will not happen again. And from the more distant past, from another, more successful American oppositionist, lesson #2: Do not "suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties [including the freedom to practice your religion as you see fit] by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency" or that most toxic contemporary variation, the reluctance to appear "negative."

"These," John Adams warns us, "as they are often used" by the empowered and their apologists, "are but . . . different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice."

Fight, my Iranian counterparts. Fight like there is no tomorrow. Fight for your parents, your children and yourselves. Fight with Bob Marley, who admonishes us always: "Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights! Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!" Victory is within your grasp. Your parents overthrew the old Shah. It is your duty-it may even be your destiny-to overthrow the new ones.

Arnold S. Wolfe is a Bend resident, and professor emeritus at Illinois State University.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Latest in Guest Commentary

More by Intern

  • The Other Half of the Yoga Equation

    The Source Issue 45 (Nov. 10) contained wonderful information about the forms of yoga offered in our vicinity. Most of the information covered pertained to the socially enjoyable forms of yoga enjoyed by the folks who use yoga mats and bendy posturing as they concentrate on improving their blissful breathing techniques. These physical forms of yoga are the beautiful compliments to the mental, mindful and meditative forms of yoga that balance the larger yoga (yogic) equation. Yoga is basically a non-denominational practice aimed at balancing the physical (body) existence with the meta-physical (mind) reality. The ensuing mind-body balance creates the union required for an increased "understanding" (consciousness) of the "living experience."
    • Jan 25, 2012
  • Walden's Corporate Servitude

    In the time-honored American tradition of peaceful civil disobedience, I am proud to be one of eight Central Oregon citizens arrested on December 5 in Congressman Greg Walden's Bend office. At our January 26 trial we plan to present a compelling defense. This act of dissent follows years of futile attempts to encourage the Congressman to hold open, unscripted town meetings accessible to a majority of his constituents. The Congressman has grown so suspicious of impromptu encounters with ordinary citizens that on Saturday he required a Bend Police Department intervention that enabled him to enter the Water Project meeting at the Chamber of Commerce through the back door. (Greg, we are nonviolent people who believe that democracy thrives on open dialogue and transparency; there is no reason to avoid us.)
    • Jan 25, 2012
  • Doors of Equality Swing Both Ways

    I had to respond to "What's Wrong with Siri," (News, 1-4) since Apple's Siri isn't the problem. Three hours before I read, "What's wrong with Siri," I went to a store in town and complimented the cashier that this was the nicest "dollar" store I had ever been in.
    • Jan 11, 2012
  • More »

Readers also liked…

© 2016 LAY IT OUT INC | 704 NW GEORGIA, BEND, OREGON 97703  |   Privacy Policy

Website powered by Foundation