THE BLOG

Hello, Iran

Blessings and Peace upon the courageous people of Persia from your devoted admirers in democracies around the world.

It's my impression today that the leaders of your current government are now quite worried, but also quite eager to stop appearing indecisive.

They have outlawed your demonstrations, but haven't officially prevented them yet. Still, at night you are chased through the streets of Tehran by militia members on motorcycles who beat you bloody with batons before dragging the wounded away in trucks. Your communications with the outside world are cut. Universities are attacked. Students are beaten and arrested. During the public demonstrations a few of you were killed selectively. Of course, this is a cowardly strategy intended to discourage all of you from organizing and continuing to meet, and yet -in courage and hope- you persist. Those of us watching from other countries wish that, in your place, we would also have your courage, your strength.

Injustice and arrogance are powerful catalysts, aren't they?

Today, if you can, take a little time to discuss what it is that you want for your country at the deepest level. Will a new election satisfy your craving for justice? Is there a way to prevent all this from happening again? The Shah was overthrown because Iranians wanted to be free. But today, Iran shouts to the world that it still wants freedom.

The Revolution that overthrew Shahanshah possessed a light that was passed from an older generation of Iranians to this new generation. It is a genuinely holy light that requires no witnesses. Those of you who feel it today know that it is the desire for hope and freedom that lives and passes across generations. It cannot be lost and it cannot be extinguished. If you do not achieve freedom now, in 2009, the light will simply remain inside you and your children waiting for its moment of opportunity.

Yesterday, the BBC tasked two satellites to deliver uncensored news to your televisions. You will know that Ayatollah Khomenei has now claimed that there is no hope for another election, that Ahmadinejad's victory is total, that there was no election fraud and that they will crack down soon if you do not stop demonstrating. Please be careful.

As I said, your unelected Supreme Leader may be trying to intimidate you because he is worried and frightened. He would he like to destroy your hope by threatening your physical safety if you choose to continue to demonstrate.

If you agree with me, you may also recognize these tactics as the naked face of dictatorship. Fear and the threat of force are the everyday hammer and nails of totalitarian state control. This is not the freedom that Iranians sought when they forced Shahanshah from his throne.

Without freedom there can be no democracy. Even honest elections under a system that sometimes threatens its own people cannot be democratic. No one can tell you you are free to vote when they hold a gun to your head or when they threaten the lives of your children because they choose to demonstrate peacefully and publicly.

For all its imperfections, democracy is the least imperfect system because it begins with a respect for the will of the people. The people can still be wrong, of course, but no one can interfere with their right to be wrong. American was completely wrong about George W. Bush, but without that mistake Barack Obama would never have been elected.

The freedom to make mistakes and to learn from them is a fundamental human right. Iranians were right to overthrow the Shah, but many people must be asking themselves today if they were also right to empower the Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council. In order to preserve freedom, many democracies have found it necessary to separate religion from politics. Because a democratic state serves the will of its people, its purposes often differ from those of religion.

The separation of church and state is a good, founding principle for democracy. It leaves a nation free to find its own destiny. Today, Iran has once again decided what its destiny will be. All that is in doubt is when that goal will be achieved. When will the light that lives inside Iranians finally show itself to the rest of the world?

Kemal Attaturk once wrote: "it takes man a long time to accomplish what Allah has decreed." -Doesn't it just?

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