Monday, January 17, 2011

Political unrest to mark MLK day

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To mark this day, there will of course be speeches, commemorations, parades, moments of silence and reflection.
Around the world, it is marked with a stark reminder that people like MLK are more of a nostalgic whisper from the past, a ghostly memory of hope for change and more importantly, movement for change.
It seems that as of late, the world has been erupting with a social and political fire - England, France, Sudan, Tunisia, Pakistan. For better or worse, people around the world seem lock stock tied to their political situations...well, except here.
For example, Tunisia, which now finds itself in a state of political anarchy, found its way to tear gas and water hoses via unemployment, rising food prices and corruption.
Tunisia's unemployment rate is around 13.3%, an improvement since last year's 14.1%.
The US: 9.1%, a slight improvement from last years 9.7% (US Department of Labor).
Some claim that the unrest in Tunisia is a direct result of WikiLeaks releasing information on the extent of corruption in the inner circles of government. State Department official P.J. Crowley contends that is a lie. Crowley claims that the Tunisian people knew of the corruption in their government for a long time. "They alone are the catalysts of this unfolding drama."
So, why did people all of a sudden lose it? The president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country on Friday after protests mounted over the past month.
Demonstrations ratcheted up a notch in December when a 26-year-old unemployed man, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire, protesting the lack of jobs. He died a few weeks later. Some say it's merely a result of jobless people, feeling lost and desperate with families to care for and bills to pay.
Either way, the country is now in a state of severe political unrest, with supplies being cut off due to violence, looting and a few murders. While this is clearly not what the people wanted, it sends a loud and clear message to whoever will take over the unity government, scheduled to be announced today.
Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton ironically projected the "importance of addressing popular concerns about the lack of civil liberties and economic opportunities, and the need to move forward with credible democratic elections."
Is anyone else drawing parallels in their mind? The eeriness of that close-to-home statement is not lost on me. I'm guessing Clinton can see it too, although she'd never admit it.
Don't we have a right to civil liberties, economic opportunity and a credible election? Aren't these things that we have been robbed of in the past 50 years?
While I do not advocate burning buildings, looting or any of the violence associated with the current unrest in Tunisia, it'd be nice to at least see someone go up there and protest. Actually protest. Not just get a few signs from Office Depot, get a permission slip to speak your mind and walk around an empty street for a few hours. A legitimate protest - one where you don't get a permission slip because you wanna stir things up, you want to interrupt people mid-sentence, mid-thought, mid-lunch or dinner. You don't want people to ignore the injustice around them anymore. People need to know what their own country is doing and they need to give a shit, they need to get involved, do something.
I'm sure far too many Americans are reading about Tunisia as if it's far off problems have no effect on their lives, as if their issues see no parallel in ours.
As a great man once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Their injustice is a mirror of ours. We share that plight. The question is, can we do something about it? Can we take their anger and funnel it into constructive change? Can we move forward?
How long will we sit on our island and pretend it isn't long will we apathetically push aside proof of injustice and social unrest?
Of the people, for the people and by the people. We are the people. Do something.

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