Friday, January 27, 2006

People Having Their Say

I believe the principal of freedom of speech must universally reside deep within the soul of writers. Perhaps it is more latent with some, but when pressed to the point, I think we all must agree it is an important core belief.

Freedom of expression is of course an important components of human dignity itself. We hear about abusive people who hit or in some other way physically harm another. But silencing someone is abuse as well. It make no difference if it's individuals within a family unit or if it is a whole group of people within a nation. It is an abusive action.

Repression of the expression of ideas is the kiss of death to art. But it is in a larger way the undoing of the human spirit. Americans I think very closely and culturally link such freedoms with the right to dissent. I believe that having the avenue of dissent open to all people is one of the greatest protections we have within our democracy. It is a safety valve that allows us to keep the government from isolation to the will of the people. It is critical in any democracy.

We have heard much about exporting democracy by the Bush administration. Stressing the belief that the whole world should mirror our image of democracy. A laudable objective on one hand, but even as the President has pushed for elections in Iraq and suggested that such examples of democracy would bloom and flourish in the middle east and that this would be a good thing.

We've seen a series of elections in Iraq and the final outcome as to the impact these have had or will have on this country and indeed the region remain to be written in history books. But we know this, the people in Iraq with all their regional differences have failed to support persons most closely alined and believed to be favored by our government.

This week, we have seen another exercise of democracy in the middle-east. This is the election of new leaders for the Palestinians. Perhaps to the surprise of many, the Hamas faction was the big winner over the ruling Fatah party. Since many Hamas leaders have openly stated that they favor the distraction of Israel, and Hamas has been linked to many suicide bombings, this is seen by many as a unsettling development. One that challenges any headway towards peace in the middle-east.

So the President has now seen some examples of democracy in the middle-east and I don't think he is liking the outcome. I certainly don't pretend to speak for Hamas or the Palestinians but I can perhaps understand why many of these people may feel motivated to such extreme. It revolves around a long history by the U.S. of involvement in the middle-east that is more heavy handed than not.

There is more than enough blame to spread between the Palestinian and Israelis for the current plight which would be an understatement to refer to as pretentious. But it is easy for me to see how many in this part of the world must constantly be looking over their shoulders to see exactly where the U.S. is now, and what we are doing. We are not especially trusted in this region.

So we are seeing people in these countries begin to express themselves with the ballot box. They are expressing for the most part fears and distrust and frustration. Israel will soon likely be reshaping their government. The people, and their decisions will likely be governed by the same emotions. It would perhaps be a good time for everyone, ourselves included to listen more when these parties express themselves. There are common fears driving all parties. Everyone needs to hear what the other one is saying. Let them speak. Let them have their dignity. Let them be heard. One can only find common ground when you understand what it is you have in common.
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