Column: Waiting, watching for a beautiful day in Iran

•  Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on June 22, 2009

It was a beautiful weekend, but I found myself inside through much of it, wrapped up in events happening half a world away.

Despite the banality of 24/7 cable news coverage, I had a hard time tearing myself away from the TV coverage of the Iran protests – even when my wife started giving me the “why are you inside watching TV on a gorgeous day” look. (Like me, she despises the 24/7 cable news networks and their constant information regurgitation. Unlike me, she’s able to completely ignore them while I get into arguments with the network personalities believing that they somehow can hear my pleas to stop repeating the same statements every five minutes.)

But I had to keep watching. Thousands of miles from here, there were thousands of people standing in the streets protesting, directly defying government orders, risking their bodies and lives, to ensure that their votes counted in the election for president, a position that has very little actual power in theocratic Iran.

They want their vote to count. They want their voice to be heard. They want a say in the direction that Iran is headed. Like any person in a democratic nation, they want to matter.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S. on Monday, thousands of local residents filled Chicago’s streets to ensure that they got a chance to try out for “American Idol,” a glorified karaoke show that humiliates some and gives others the chance to eventually become paparazzi bait.

The contrast certainly is hard to wrap the mind around. We easily forget how good we have it in this country – as evidenced by the low voter turnout that afflicts both national and local elections.

I couldn’t watch TV while at work at Monday, but I was constantly checking various Web sites for the latest. Again, Iranians protested. Again, they were beaten back.

I don’t know how this is going to turn out, and neither do the experts. Maybe the military crackdown will work. It certainly has for China in the past. Maybe the ruling clerics will allow another vote, unlikely but possible. Maybe the military will switch sides and democracy will begin to flourish in Iran, even more unlikely but also possible.

All I know is that I pray and hope that the protesters eventually get the rights and voice they are so desperate for. And if enough Iranians rally to their cause, it will happen no matter what the government does.

I also know it won’t happen because of anything America did. President Obama has taken flak for not taking a hard-enough stance, but he’s doing the right thing this time.

For democracy to take hold, it requires a true will of the people, not something a foreign power comes in and sets up for them. Maybe the Iraq and Afghanistan experiments will work – and I will happily eat my words if they do – but I wouldn’t be surprised if Iran becomes an independent democracy first.

Democracy is not something that should be force fed to a people – at least not if you want them to continue to eat after you stop pushing the spoon toward their mouth. It’s something people must plant, harvest and cook for themselves, and it certainly looks as if the people of Iran have a handful of seeds ready.

As for me, I will keep watching for that moment when democracy blooms in Iran. It will be a truly beautiful thing if it happens, and I wouldn’t miss seeing it on TV for the world. Or even a beautiful weekend day.

Joe Grace is the editor of The Chronicle. You can write to him at or call him at 630-845-5368.


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