As the world watches the ‘revolutions’ ongoing throughout the North African continent, it gives me a warm and comforting feeling that I can take a front row seat and that while I’m deeply touched I remain unharmed.
More than 40 years ago, Gil Scott-Heron recited (rapped) his famous damning lyrics in The Revolution will Not be Televised, in which he railed against the commercial icons representing life in America (the Revolution will not go better with Coke) and warned that the revolution (of blacks) will be live.
Remember, this was at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, when the presence of news cameras played an extraordinary role in furthering the cause for equal representation. We saw, live and in living color, nightly recaps of what happens when ordinary people are continually and unjustly oppressed by so-called “benign” leaders.
We are privileged again to watch another revolution for democracy brought live to our living rooms — Tunisia then Egypt. Which one might be next?
In the case of the United States, we have always been a “democracy” but only after several constitutional amendments and after almost 100 years of existence were all of its citizens given a legitimate vote/voice.
Since our founding, however, we have tried to export our brand of democracy throughout the rest of the world, mostly with little success unless we actually annexed the territories; e.g., Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the US Virgin Islands and other far flung territories, i.e., Guam, et al.
I am reading with great interest a recent publication, Power, Faith and Fantasy, by Michael B. Oren, historian, professor and authority on the Middle East.
In this detailed tome — 776 pages, including notes — Prof. Oren makes the case that the United States has been involved in the Middle East since 1776, albeit initially in pursuit of protecting our shipping lanes against the pirates of the Barbary Coast (North Africa), then in the interest of spreading our “Christian” (read “Protestant”) religious orientation (sometimes to help fulfill biblical prophesy to return the old Hebrews to their home in Palestine), and subsequently in pursuit of the “exoticism” of the area.
During the 230 years, according to Oren, Americans “helped define the Middle East by forging its borders and introducing notions of national identity.”
Now we are seeing the results of that involvement playing on the nightly news.
I am not so much interested in the past posture of our country in “Middle Eastern” affairs as much as I am in how we at home can take the current lesson to heart.
You see, we have, upon close examination, been witnessing our own “revolution” take place here at —-home, with and without gun fire.
You can argue that the Tea Party fired the first salvo or that the smoke from the Civil Rights era is still smoldering and/or that the ink from the Founding Fathers’ pens has not yet completely dried.
I say all of the above.
I am convinced that America — this so-called experiment in democracy — is just that, an experiment. The formula is being tried, tested and is still not proven to work neither here nor there and that there is still much work to be done on perfecting the lofty ideals that continue to mutate in the laboratory of the world at large and in the United States of America, in particular.
For sure, we hold a few “patents,” such as the Constitution; the amendment process, which is messy but proven to work; the checks and balances of our three-tiered ruling structure; universal voting rights (received only after a bloody fight); etc.
But, and here’s the rub, it is in the cauldron of trying to live out the promises of democratic principles that light the sparks of revolution in the hearts of people throughout the universe, who, when given a taste of freedom, will not stop until the full promise is delivered, by any means necessary.
The Revolution is being Tweeeted.
Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.