Yesterday evening, as I enjoyed a dinner on our back patio
of our suburban home with my wife and two children, it occurred to me that instead
of dining on leftover roast chicken and sipping a French rosé, I
should climb onto my roof and shout “Death to the dictator!”
Consider this scenario:
It’s exactly one year ago, during the American presidential
elections. President Bush and Vice President Cheney have decided that the risk
of another terrorist attack on US soil is too high and the security of the
county can’t be entrusted to Obama or McCain, so they suspend the election and
continue their terms indefinitely—all in the name of national security. Street
protests erupt across major American cities. The police, the National Guard,
even federal troops are called out to quell the violence, but protesters continue
to defy authorities, and the casualty counts begin to rise.
Do I leave my wife and two young children to join the protests in
downtown Chicago? Do I risk getting shot, beaten into a coma, or arrested and
then beaten into a coma, to defend American democracy?
Do I allow my wife to go?
I ask these questions for two reasons. The first is the typical
Western bourgeois guilt about rooting for other people to charge into the breach
in the name of human rights as I cheer from the very safe sidelines of the
American Midwest. I hope Iranians continue their pressure on the regime, but I
have nothing at stake myself.
The other reason has to do with how I’ve experienced the events in
Tehran. I joined Twitter a few days ago after my post on Foucault in Iran was
spread all over the world on Twitter. (I’m @rmprouty, in case you want to
follow me.) I’ve been following the uprising very closely on Twitter, and the
view is much different than the accounts in the New York Times and the Washington
Post. The Twitter feeds are dramatic and vivid, full of breathless speculation about
activities in the upper reaches of government. The newspaper accounts are just
the opposition, blandly conveying official statements from the IRI and noting
tersely that people are dying in the streets of Tehran.
Twitter, I’m finding, is unusual in another way. Dispatches from
Tehran (from a few moments ago: “yesterday we saw a 10 years old child die from teargas in his face”) are mixed in with puns from David
Pogue, random quotes passed on by David Allen, unfailingly cheerful distiches from
Jaime Oliver (“I’m on the Steve Wright show later, hes such a lovely guy top
boy”), and updates from my niece on her move to Chicago. The juxtaposition of the reassuringly mundane
with the highly dramatic echoes the experience of watching a revolution on a
sunny summer day.
I’ve never seen anything like the events of the past few days. I
just hope I never have to go through anything like them.