“We must live together like brothers, or perish together as fools.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

 Civil Rights tshirt

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

“A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess.” ~ A. Philip Randolph

Apparently, the protests against Ordinance 64 in Anchorage have gone the way of many American protests in recent years: The reds are bussing people in from churches in nearby cities. By doing this, the antis are creating the appearance that the majority of people in Anchorage are against Ordinance 64.

Children Bused in for Protests by AK Muckraker of Mudflats
Children Bused in for Anchorage Protests by AK Muckraker of The Mudflats

Just in case you didn’t read my previous post, this ordinance is intended to expand the anti-discrimination law that is currently on the books by adding wording that would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Now let me pause here. I am a big believer in free speech and the right to protest, but I am sorely dismayed by two things: Individuals who are not actually living in Anchorage are being allowed to voice their opinions in the open forum. This hardly seems to be fair play. The forum was created as a way to allow those individuals who live in Anchorage to voice their opinion before a vote is taken. The people from outlying areas are forcing an outcome that is not based on real data.

Now you may be thinking, ‘why doesn’t the pro side bus in some people?’ Well, I could respond that such a move is not normally employed by the pros, or if you will, those for the ordinance guaranteeing basic civil rights to all people. But that isn’t entirely true, and we all know it. Which brings me to the second things that dismays and disheartens me: Why do people who feel strongly about passing this ordinance not get out and join the protests?

As Janson commented on my earlier post:

I think the blue-crowd needs to remember that you have to show up and you have to be present to push for change. The reds know this. Every year I see anti-abortion demonstrations on campus. This is fine by me; they have a right and frankly I love to see students taking an active political stand in support of their beliefs (even if I disagree with them or disagree with the Rhetorical strategies they sometimes deploy). But when’s the last time I’ve seen a well-organized, effective Pro-Choice rally? Just for the sake of supporting Pro-Choice rights? How about, um… never? Maybe back at Florida State? Around 1994?

I rarely see proactive liberal demonstrations. A few Bush or Iraq protests are all I’ve seen in recent years. How about instead of arguing against something or someone, we argue for something? More pro-actively, more civically?

He’s right. The left doesn’t just protest for the sake of protest any more, and those of us who call ourselves liberal, pro-choice, pro-human rights need to remember that the opposition shows us time after time just how well organized they are. That type of willingness on their part to rush to the site of any protest is something that we on the other side should take note of.

If homosexuality is a disease, let’s all call in queer to work:  “Hello.  Can’t work today, still queer.”  ~ Robin Tyler

Ordinance 64 anti protest sign4Nevertheless, I still hold that some of the opposition’s signs are more ludicrous than effective. This one strikes me as particularly funny: “I was born Asian. You choose to be Gay,” as the picture  on the right shows. My response, as partially posted on Janson’s blog is twofold: “Well, I was born Asian, and I choose not to be stupid, uninformed, closed-minded, and bigoted.”

(And what’s with the peasant hat?)

And let’s not forget our science, people. Homosexuality is not a choice for most people. It is something with which they are born. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how homosexuality tends to run in some families. And I would contend that that is a strong case for nature not nurture, because in some of the families that I know of, those who are gay, hide it out of fear. These people will come out to their friends, but not to their families because they are afraid of becoming outcasts.

We still have so much more to do until more of those people on the anti side of the fence realize that homosexuality is not an abomination before god.  If the god of the New Testament is a loving god, how then do these people justify the hatred that they spew in the name of god?

 “When the government violates the people’s rights, insurrection, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of the rights and the most indispensable of duties.” ~ Marquis de Lafayette

June 20 protest image
Image from June 20 Protest

As for protests, the situation in Iran seems to be taking a turn for the worse. Approximately three thousand protesters defied the ban imposed by the Supreme Leader, and took to the streets once again. The police responded with tear gas, water cannons and guns, but no fatalities have been reported. Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam said on state television that officials “acted with leniency but I think from today on, we should resume law and confront more seriously . . . The events have become exhausting, bothersome and intolerable.”

An MSNBC report from around 3:30 EST states that Mousavi has indicated a willingness to become a martyr. Mousavi is still demanding an annulment of the June 12 elections:

In a letter to Iran’s Guardian Council, which investigates voting fraud allegations, Mousavi listed violations that he says are proof that the June 12 vote should be annulled. He said some ballot boxes had been sealed before voting began, thousands of his representatives had been expelled from polling stations and some mobile polling stations had ballot boxes filled with fake ballots.

“The Iranian nation will not believe this unjust and illegal” act, Mousavi said in the letter published on one of his official Web sites.

The Supreme Leader Ayatullah Khameini has ordered the crackdown. Accordin to Britain’s Times Online, Khameini declared that “‘those politicians who somehow have influence on people should be very careful about their behaviour if they act in an extremist manner . . . This extremism will reach a sensitive level which they will not be able to contain. They will be responsible for the blood, violence and chaos.” 

As to Khameini’s assertions that the protestors are being motivated by the West, President Obama, in the face of mounting criticism, is still taking a cautious stance, which I believe has allowed the protestors more freedom than if our President had come out in full support of the opposition. According to White House Spokesperson Robert Gibbs, the administration’s view is that Iranian leaders would use fiercer U.S. support for the protesters to paint them as puppets of the Americans.

In spite of this, Republicans led a Congressional Resolution that expresses support for “all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and rule of law” and affirms “the importance of democratic and fair elections.”

John McCain on IranCertainly the U.S. embraces the values of freedom and human rights (sometimes), but coming out in open support of the Green Party will only escalate matters. Hawkish John McCain took the opportunity to slam President Obama on the Today Show and on Fox news, saying that the President isn’t doing enough and the U.S. should be more involved in the crisis. McCain must have a short memory.

The Congress is making statements that the U.S. should speak out because the protestors deserve their democratic rights. Iran is not a democracy. This is one important fact that those in favor of more harsh statements seem to be forgetting.

We must not forget how high tempers run in this country, and that Iran has never forgiven the U.S. for interfering in its politics by helping to establish the Shah Mohammed Riza Pahlavi as leader of the country during the Cold War. The repercussions for U.S. involvement in Iranian politics led to  the 1979 Iranian overthrow of the Shah and the subsequent capture of 52 U.S. diplomats who were held for 444 days.

 “Activism is my rent for living on this planet.” ~ Alice Walker

Hendrix, Jimi
Jimi Hendrix in Concert

On a final note, Corey and I were discussing Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,” which was written by Bob Dylan in the 60’s. We were talking about possible interpretations of the song, and I suppose since I have protests on the brain, I was telling Corey that I thought the song, as Hendrix sang it, was about alienation. Dylan may have written it as a folksong, but how many people actually listen to the Dylan version?

“Watchtower is a Hendrix song, and it speaks to me of the great disillusionment felt by that generation, an entire group of young people who felt let down by their country, let down by the system, misunderstood by their parents, and greatly alienated from white bread society.

I’ll leave you now with two versions of the song: Jimmi’s, of course, and a pretty cool version by composer and musician Bear McCreary (music for “Battlestar Galactica”).

More later. Peace be with you.

 

 

 

“Where is my vote?” ~ Protest Sign in Iran

From Andrew Sullivan's blog
Image from Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish

 

“Stop this last lie” ~ Mir Hossain Mosavi

Rumi,  from “A Green-Winged Longing”

So let’s begin the journey home,
with love and compassion for guides,
and grace protecting. Let your soul turn

into an empty mirror that passionately wants
to reflect Joseph. Hand him your present.

Now let silence speak, and as that
gift begins, we’ll start out.

(Version by Coleman Barks from a translation by John Moyne)

“I use this chance to honor the emotions of the nation of Iran and remind them that Iran, this sacred being, belongs to them and not to the fraudulent.” ~ Mir Hossein Mousavi

5 miles of protestors
Five Miles of Protestors (From Boston.com)

Today marks the fifth straight day of opposition protests in Iran. Pictures of the protests show people from all walks of life, not just students and intellectuals now, walking side by side, virtually in silence, forming a column of people stretching over five miles long, beginning at Revolution Square in Tehran and ending at Freedom Square.  

In case you haven’t been following the news, the protests began after the country’s so-called democratic elections for President were held on Friday. Voters went to the polls from early morning until about midnight, extending the time allotted to cast votes by six hours to accommodate the high turnout. With about 46 million total votes cast, Iran’s Interior Ministry announced the first results indicating  that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won about 63 percent of the vote about an hour after the polls closed. The Ministry announced the official results less than a day later. The Friday announcement from the Ministry came just minutes after Mousavi declared himself the winner. 

This was after robust campaigning between reformist candidate former Prime Minister Mir Hossain Mosavi and Ahmadinejad in the four weeks leading up to the election. Earlier on Friday, Mousavi claimed victory. Friday evening, Mousavi held a press conference in which he claimed that he had won, and he charged that there were a number of election irregularities. According to an article in The New York Times, since the announcement proclaiming Ahmadinejad’s victory, opposition leaders have made a list of what they call election violations and irregularities.

ahmadinejad looks on
Ahmadinejad Looks On

Perhaps I should point out that these were paper ballots. From 45,000 polling stations. It is highly improbably that approximately 39 million votes were counted by hand in an hour.

Normally, election results are not announced for three days. Another odd thing about this election (among many) was that Supreme Leader Ali Khameini certified the results at 1:38 a.m. on Saturday and called the results a “divine assessment.” It is widely known that Khameini has had an ongoing feud with Mosavi for the past 30 years.

The protests began soon after. And the government crackdown on Internet access, cellular phone usage and text messaging came immediately after the announcement about Ahmadinejad’s victory.

“Take the websites and our cell phones, we don’t give our country to you!” ~ Latest Iranian Protest Slogan

I must admit that when one of my favorite bloggers said to follow him on Twitter several months ago, I gave him a hard time. I believe that my exact words were “Twitter is for sissies.”

When my very dear friend Jammi asked me to join her on Twitter, I told her that I couldn’t possibly handle yet another posting media. But she prevailed, and I joined Twitter almost a month ago. For me, Twitter has been a nice diversion, an easy way to follow Janson’s vacation in Florida, an up-to-date method for staying abreast of what Jammi is doing in Texas.

6-15-09 protest in support of Mousavi
Image taken from Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish

But recent days have proven me completely wrong in my first assessment of Twitter, and I am here to admit just how wrong I was. Twitter is not just a lightweight social medium for celebrities to post what they are having for lunch. I mean, that may have been the way in which it started, but because of what  is happening now in Iran, Twitter has become one of the only media through which the protestors in Iran have been able to get out their messages about what is currently happening in Iran: real-time messages from real people.

Because of Twitter, people all over the world are getting up-to-the-second updates of exactly what is going on during this crisis. I have read several different statistics, but apparently, the number of Iranians under the age of 30 is anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of the country’s total population, which would account for their tech-savvy in knowing how to bypass IP addresses and how to use proxy servers.

Even though the government has tried to use traditional methods of repressing information—ejecting journalists from the country, jamming satellites (e.g. BBC satelite), imposing a blackout on Facebook, text messaging, and any other social sites—the Green Party protestors have found their way around the blackouts. By Monday, 3,500 videos had been posted to YouTube. Tweets have been unending.

MSNBC has reported that the Iranian government “raised the stakes in the Internet battle on Wednesday by spreading the word that online users could face prosecution and even execution for ‘incitement.'”  An estimated 18 million Iranians use the Internet.

However, Tweets in the last 24 hours have increased in the number of posts claiming that the government has infiltrated the Twitter network, and consequently, Twitter users are advising readers to follow information regarding meeting sites and protests only from reliable (known to be opposition) addresses.

The caliber of Tweets ranges from announcements about which street corners have been designated as meeting sites, to appeals to find out where missing persons have been taken. 

As I posted last night, Andrew Sullivan’s Blog, The Daily Dish, has been posting Tweets continuously in an effort to help to keep getting the word out. And the State Department asked Twitter to delay their scheduled maintenance until middle of the night Tehran time so as to allow continued updates from the protesters.

Here is a small selection of Tweets:

this may become a massacre, dear god keep them safe

the gov apparently doesn’t trust the normal police, they are all unarmed with empty holsters!

As Dusk Arrives from Andrew Sullivans
"As Dusk Arrives," from Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish

1 of my friends reports from Azadi that special forces r beating ppl most brutally. lots of ppl r badly injured.

call from Niavaran saying plainclothes going door2door now looking for satellite dsh

please RT urgent does anyone know whats happening near saiee park? my daughter is near

we only want freedom – we are peaceful – we have no life no future in IRI without freedom.

it’s worth taking the risk, we’re going. I won’t be able to update until I’m back. again thanks for your kind support and wish us luck

Now . . . I hear people are chanting Allohakbar on their roof-tops, on all roof tops, it is stronger than any day [so far].

“I am very angry at myself for being fooled so easily, they got us to vote, which gave them legitimacy, and then they manipulated the results, many are vowing never to vote again.” ~ Comment found on the Daily Dish

Injured protestor

I am reposting Janson Jones’s  list of sites on which you can find information and articles on the ongoing situation in Iran

  • The Daily Dish. For one useful stream of information (pooling from many, many sources), please read Andrew Sullivan’s blog.
  • The Lede. This blog over at the New York Times has also been working hard on relaying information.
  • Boston.com Gallery. For a series of striking and moving images, such as the ones posted here, check out this gallery on Boston.com.
  • “This Just In: Twitter Destroys CNN”. An excellent post on the competing values of mainstream news sources and alternative data streams such as Twitter and Facebook. 
  • “The ‘Bomb Iran’ Contingent’s Newfound Concern for the Iranian People. Harsh but important words from Glenn Greenwald over at Salon.com. 
  • Green Peace Sign
    Green Party Peace Sign

     

    I say not who I really am

    in honor of the dead.
    Did they suspect this morning that it would be so?
    The reason why we are here is like millions of pebbles on a beach
    Being tumbled into fine smooth form by ocean waves
    The reason why we were asked is not merely fate
    It is the megalithic rock from whence we came.
    It can’t stay, it won’t stay, it doesn’t want to stay unchanged
    Pushing on, reaching the greater perfection of unity.
    Little pieces, maybe so— but it strives to be apart to fully understand the concept of wholeness.
    A test.
    By warring we fail the test—to be repeated till we get it right.
    painfully so.

    ~ by Red Cloud (found on Poets Against War)
                                                                                                                                

    Images are taken from http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/06/irans_disputed_election.html  or from Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish as indicated.