Friday, April 10, 2009

Red and Yellow Make Orange

I've never met Stanley Weiss but I would like to--his reprinted column in The Nation yesterday provided a very necessary perspective on the process of creating a democracy:
"What do you call a decracy in which women cannot vote, slavery is openly practiced, elected office is reserved for wealthy white landowners, and national laws define an entire race of people as three-fifths of a human being?
For nearly a century, we called it "The United States of America." It is fortunate that America's founding fathers  never had to defend those contradictions on the pages of the Economist or to the cameras of CNN."

As hard as it is to admit it, America did not invent democracy, nor is the variant we practice the only model in the world, nor is perfect. It did not spring up in its current form without a horrendous war for independence, followed 100 years later by a bloody civil war in which Americans killed Americans.  The idea of nonviolent protests came only just before the U.S. celebrated its 200th birthday, adopted from another democracy, India. It is still a principle that is occasionally ignored when "riots" (or violent protests) set our cities in flames.

Keeping this in mind, I have to give credit to the opposing factions in Thailand--red shirts, yellow shirts, taxi drivers, even politicians in exile. Although their actions are wildly inconvenient as the airport was shut down and traffic placed in gridlock the other day, and in my more cynical moments, I think that their motives are suspect, very little violence has taken place during the last year of almost perpetual protest.

Even when the flashpoint was perilously close during the airport occupation, there were no deaths. For that both red and yellow deserve full credit. Me? I'm going out shopping to find shirts in a shade of orange... 

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