Before becoming one of the first Americans launched into space, Alan Sheppard prayed, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me fuck up” while sitting atop his rocket. Think of those words now as the people of Iran struggle for freedom.
But don’t pray for them — pray for us not to fuck this up.
Win or lose, the people of Iran can’t fuck up. They’re fighting for their freedom, and whether they live or they die, they’ll have done so as free men. An Iranian student executed at dawn is every bit as free as you or me. The only difference is, we get to live free, but he has to die for it.
All we can do is put our fingers lightly on the scales of injustice, and help decide in some small measure how many young Iranian men and women must die, and whether their jail keepers will someday soon find justice in this world, rather than in the next.
So what can we do? How can we put our fingers on the scales without the butchers catching us?
The most important thing is what we don’t do. Don’t send letters to President Bush, telling him to point Third Infantry Division east towards Tehran. First off, we more than have our hands full already in Iraq and elsewhere. But more importantly, let’s not try to turn their revolution into our occupation. Iranians are a proud people, and rightly so; this is their country, their fight, and their future to win.
Don’t take a bunch of the Shah’s old cronies, happily ensconced in LA or who-knows-where for the last 25 years, and prop them up as the new leaders of a Free Iran. Free Iran already has its leaders – they’re organizing the protests and the rallies, they’re sending out emails and faxes and running blogs, they’re licking their wounds in dungeons and awaiting, perhaps, their own executions.
The new leaders of Iran are women wearing some makeup and showing their faces in public. They’re parents with covert satellite dishes, letting their children see the better world outside the mullahs’ reach. They’re college students brave enough to risk their young lives for “an outcome dubious.” They’re army leaders not cowardly enough to shoot their own people.
They are people not much different from you and me, except they’re risking everything to take for themselves all those freedoms we take so much for granted.
Let’s not take all that away from them, OK?
When they win – and I hope like hell they do – the government they establish might not be the perfect one we’d hope for. Democracy, after all, is a far-from-perfect process. But it’s a good process, and one they’re entitled to work out day by day, just as we do.
The day I look forward to is the day when Washington and Tehran each look at some important issue and respectfully disagree. That day may be soon.
I promised to tell you how we can hasten that day. Here’s how.
Use that freedom of speech you possess, but Iranians don’t. If you have a blog, then blog. Write a letter to the editor of your hometown newspaper. Call your favorite radio show. Use it to tell your President, your Senators, your Congressman, and your Secretary of State that they need to speak out. And more importantly, tell them they need to speak to Iran. Tell those freedom fighters we want them to have their rights, we want them to enjoy their freedoms, we want them to build a better nation, and, should worst come to worst, we’re not afraid to stand with them, shoulder to shoulder.
And tell your leaders to tell Iran that we’re going to try real hard not to fuck this up.
A man who wants to be free can become an unstoppable force, if he knows that other free men are on his side. And the mullahs are no immovable object; they bleed just as easily as free men do – and there aren’t nearly as many of them.
So speak out, by telling your leaders to speak out, too.