THE FACES OF OUR LEADERS
By Micah Halpern
Wednesday June 24, 2009
Think of a word that expresses the ideal for which the Western world strives.
Think of a concept that epitomizes a dream for all Westerners.
Think of a game that emblemizes the way Westerners chase after that ideal and live out that dream.
As independent as we think we are, we in the West look to leaders to rally us forward and define our purpose. For Westerners, especially in the United States, every movement needs a face.
Good movements or bad movements, ideological movements or religious movements, self help movements or mass demonstration movements - every movement needs a leader, every movement needs a face.
Americans join the army because Uncle Sam asks us to. Americans slim down because Tommy Lasorda, Valerie Bertinelli or Oprah ask us to. Our leaders shape our world by shaping our ideas.
We cannot understand Islamic terror, so we focus on Osama bin Laden. We cannot understand the complex tribal balance between Arab groups, so we focus on Saddam Hussein. We cannot understand Hezbollah, so we focus on Nasrallah. We cannot understand the thirst for freedom, so we focus on twenty-six year old Neda Agha-Soltan lying dead in the street. We cannot understand a government so willing to strip away the freedoms of its citizens, so we focus on Mir Hussein Mousavi.
We cannot understand, even our supreme leader, our president, does not completely understand, but we should try.
The power of the events now unfolding in Iran has revealed the true Iran. The curtain has been lifted and we must allow the reality of life and governance and religious control in Iran to take hold in our minds and in the minds of our leaders, our decision makers, the faces we look up to and follow.
Mir Hussein Mousavi's greatest contribution to the movement that we think he leads is that he is not Mohammad Ahmadinejad. The biggest difference between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad is that Mousavi wears nicely cut pinstripe suits and Ahmadinejad wears polyester leisure suits.
The people of Iran had their cause, they had their movement. They were not looking for a leader - they were looking to express themselves in a peaceful manner. They went out to vote, not riot. And then they went out to peacefully demonstrate, not violently revolt.
But the West could not understand what was happening. So the Western media chose a face for the people of Iran, and that faced belonged to Mousavi. The media chose Mousavi not for Iranians - they knew all along that all the candidates were one and the same, they chose him so that the West would have a face and therefore be able to understand the movement taking place in Iran.
Iranians are upset not because Ahmadinejad was declared winner in this election and Mousavi was not, they are upset because Ahmadinejad was proclaimed to have won a landslide victory. And that means that their votes were not even counted. Ahmadinejad might have honestly won the election, but not by that large a margin.
The Supreme Leader miscalculated, and he knows it. And that is why Iran has exhibited so much patience in dealing with this internal crisis. That is why so few protesters have died so far. Hundreds of graves, rectangles dug into the earth, have been prepared for the violence. The family of one victim was told that they
Other countries in the region would not have behaved with such restraint. Egypt and Jordan, friends of the West, would never have permitted these protests to continue. By now, Syria would have massacred thousands of protesters making it clear from the outset that protests are not permitted.
And if Mousavi were in office, he would do the same. As prime minister of Iran Mousavi was responsible for 7,000 deaths by execution of Iranians who challenged the authority. Under Mousavi the fatwah, the religious edict calling for the death of Salman Rushdie was issued. Mousavi, the face the West has chosen to represent freedom from Iranian persecution, called upon all Iranians to kill the author on sight.
In the West we need leaders to propel our movements. In non-Western countries leaders inhibit movement.