Big Mike: Revolution In The USA

February 17th, 2011

Let me begin today’s post with a cry for help. Is there anyone out there who knows of a cure for the common earworm? Because Katy Perry’s “Firework” is torturing me as we speak. If it doesn’t stop soon, there will be mayhem in my little corner of the Solar System.

There.

Make It Stop, I Beg You!

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Now then. The Loved One and I were discussing the rash of popular uprisings in the Middle East last night. We’d been listening to NPR news on the way home from work and learned that crowds had gathered in Bahrain’s capital to erect a tent city in protest against the bullies who run that tiny island nation in the Persian Gulf. (Bahrain is only slightly bigger than the city of Chicago.)

The Al Khalifa family rules Bahrain as if the entire nation is its own backyard. The patriarch of the clan, Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, became the Emir in 1999. Not satisfied with all the jewels and salaams that go with that exalted office, old Hamad named himself king three years later. Some guys are just ambitious that way.

Half of Bahrain’s cabinet ministers as well as the prime minister are members of the clan. It would be natural to assume that the Bahrainian ruling family runs things with an iron fist but, according to most outside observers, the country is one of the more progressive in the Arab world (which, admittedly, isn’t saying all that much, but still….)

The place has one of the freest presses in the Middle East (again, consider the competition) and women have the right to vote. Street demonstration are rather common and Human Rights Watch in 2005 even called Bahrain “a poster child for political reform in the Middle East.”

I don’t suppose Bahrain will be celebrating gay marriages anytime soon but, as things go in the Middle East, you could say the glass is half full there.

This Isn’t Bahrain, Boys (from the LA Times)

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Nevertheless, thousands of protesters have been settling in for the long haul in the middle of downtown Manama. (That is, until just a few hours ago — I’m writing this at 9:30am, EST. Bahrainian security forces have attacked the protesters, killing at least five and injuring hundreds.)

Popular demonstrations and uprisings are nothing new in Bahrain. After oil was discovered there in 1932, transforming the heretofore ignorable little land into an immediate darling of Westerners, the Bahrainian rank and file began to grow weary of its British colonial occupiers. Their rage boiled over after the end of World War II and they lashed out against — who else? — the Jews.

It must be comforting to have a convenient small ethno-religious group you can blame all the ills of the world on. I’ve got to to find one of my own.

Them Goddamn Icelanders Run The Banks And Control The Media!

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Anyway, Bahrain’s Jews ran for their lives (as of 2008, only 37 Jews lived in the country — that’s not me being a smart-ass; it’s an official figure.) The widespread rioting petered out when Bahrainians realized there weren’t any more Jews around whose heads they could bash.

That didn’t free the country from the British yoke. It wasn’t until the United Kingdom some twenty years later decided it no longer had the will to run Bahrain that the nation gained its independence.

Since then, Sunni and Shi’a muslims have blamed each other for whatever inequities they perceived in their little land. There’ve been mass protests, a few riots, and even a failed coup attempt.

Many of the sparks for political confrontations on the streets of Bahrain have centered around women. When you haven’t got any Jews around to maim, someone’s gotta suffer. In 1994 riots swept the country because some women had participated in a sporting event. One of the loudest Parliament controversies in recent years surrounded a proposed Islamic-sponsored ban on women hanging their clean undershorts out to dry in public.

Tyranny In Bahrain

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The horrors suffered by oppressed Bahrainians are unconscionable, indeed.

Apparently, the catalyst for this most recent protest is the Al Khalifa family’s cozy relationship with the Untied States. Fair enough. The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain. Imagine if, say, the Chinese had an air force base in McHenry County.

It occurred to me, after listening to the report on the Bahrain protest, that this recent wave of Middle East uprisings has more to do with people’s animal natures than any high-minded precepts like freedom or self-determination.

When all is said and done, the mass of us aren’t that much different than a flock of birds. Throw a stone in the middle of a gathering of starlings and they all fly away — even those who had no idea a stone was thrown. The need to conform is as overwhelming in the avian world as it is in the body politic.

Birds Of The World, Unite!

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I’m getting the vibe that much of the shouting and placard-carrying in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Iran, etc. is a self-perpetuating, gut-level, reactionary, mass movement of a flock of creatures. I know a lot of observers are shouting huzzah that “the people” are speaking. Yet I don’t see these people calling for freedom of religion or even the aforementioned gay marriage.

I doubt the people of the world are against tyranny itself, just the wrong kinds of tyrants.

Which brings me to this holy land. Expanding upon my flock-of-creatures hypothesis, I wondered aloud if perhaps Americans might get swept up in the uprising frenzy. What if, for instance, Barack Obama is reelected in 2012? (I bet the mortgage he will be; The Loved One fears he won’t.)

Is it unreasonable to imagine Tea Party-ists and other nervous types taking to the streets and demanding his overthrow? If the radical right doesn’t win prompt license to pollute with impunity, to accumulate as much sparkly junk as is human possible, to deny health coverage to anyone not wealthy enough to afford it, to slash education budgets until the school day consists solely of reporting for attendance, and to amass enough guns to repel an invasion by the allied alien armies of the Andromeda Galaxy, might they stage a reprise of today’s Arab world revolts?

How many Americans who think Barack Obama = Hitler are watching video footage from the Middle East on Fox News and feeling a tingle in their spine?

How crazy will the years 2012 through 2016 be in the Great United States, Inc.?

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