Column: Good news

By David Johnson

Not interested in world events? Read no further and get back to planning where you’ll get drunk tonight.

The cosmopolitan among us know that somehow, in some way, events across the world affect our lives. Exactly how, we’re not quite sure, since it’s no longer as simple as a monolithic villain declaring war on the home of the brave.

Our current way of thinking means we find ourselves with military deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan to bring democracy and freedom to those nations. The many nations of the world are important because free societies will provide for our long-term safety. Yet American military might isn’t the only source of freedom for the oppressed; movements across the world seek to establish personal liberties through their own struggles.

In Champaign’s cocoon, we’re isolated from most news that lacks either immediate importance or a political agenda, which is why I believe everyone should know about the prospects for democracy (and long-term stability) worldwide.

We start our democracy run-down in Kyrgyzstan:

On March 24, a mass of over 10,000 protestors converged in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to protest the illegitimate government of President Akaev, who came to power after rigged elections in February. The protest soon swelled, bringing in thousands more civilians who confronted the military and stormed the presidential residence. President Akaev fled the country, and the opposition leader who is assumed to be in some control is planning new elections.

We continue to another former Soviet state, Belarus, where the picture is less rosy:

On Belarus’ independence day, hundreds of protestors were arrested for “breaching the peace” for protesting President Lukashenko’s continued imprisonment and torture of opposition leaders in that country.

The protestors in Belarus were inspired by those in Kyrgyzstan, who were inspired by the recent victory of reformers in Ukraine. The Ukrainian democrats were in turned inspired by the democratic success of Georgia some months ago. The former Soviet states are going through more civil unrest, as the people demand accountability and freedom from their governments.

We move now to the African nation of Zimbabwe, where elections are currently underway. President Robert Mugabe is one of the most brutal tyrants in the world, putting down opposition through such tactics as withholding the food supply, putting people in jail or, worse yet, murder. While Mugabe puts on a farce of democratic elections, expect to see a million ghost voters (putting Chicago politics to shame) as Mugabe tries to maintain a stranglehold on power. However, much of the armed forces and huge swathes of the country are fed up with Mugabe’s iron fist, and, considering the United States and most of the European Union are firmly opposed to Mugabe, look for unrest if the election is viewed as the farce it is.

Finally, we turn to the tumultuous Middle East, where a recent victory by the national soccer team prompted massive protests against the theocratic government throughout Iran, with the number of protestors potentially numbering in the hundreds of thousands. The state-run Iranian media are worried; even while the protests are entirely peaceful, the government is blustering about “foreign exhibitionist forces” responsible for such pro-democratic activity.

“Foreign exhibitionist forces” can only mean the United States, which is of course still tied down in the reconstruction of the burgeoning democracy in Iraq. Despite the barrage of bad news, there are constant positive developments from Iraq: polls show increasing support and optimism for a diverse democracy with religious inspiration, but clearly not under religious control. There is also increasing intolerance for the terrorist attacks, with many civilians now taking defense into their own hands. Blogger Arthur Chrenkoff (at http://chrenkoff.blogspot.com) provides an invaluable resource for the plethora of positive news coming from Iraq that we never hear.

Democracy is on the march. Regardless of who wins the big game tomorrow, the fact that people long oppressed may soon have the rights we take for granted means we should support them in any way necessary.

Melodramatic? If I were being tortured in a Belarussian prison for speaking my mind, I wouldn’t think so.

David Johnson is a senior in business. His columns run Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected]