Photo credit: Reuters

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

We the People: Kiev, Arab Spring, Occupy

Dear Mr. President,
Here’s what your Vice told President Viktor Yanukovich of Ukraine the other day: “violence has no place in a democratic society and is incompatible with our strategic relationship.” (NYT, “Ukraine’s Forces Move Against Protesters, Dimming Hopes for Talks” p. A6) Where was Biden on October 25, 2011 when Oakland police and Alameda County sheriffs sent Iraqi war veteran Scott Olsen to the hospital with a fractured skull during their violent crackdown on the Occupy Oakland encampment? Or on Nov. 9 when the same law enforcement thugs beat Occupy protesters (including 70-year-old Professor and former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass and his wife) with truncheons to break up an Occupy protest on the UC Berkeley campus? Or Nov. 18 when UC Davis campus cops pepper-sprayed a group of peaceful protesters sitting on the ground? Or the countless acts of violence and brutality by the NYPD against Occupy Wall Street demonstrators? Biden’s lecture to Yanukovich was blatantly hypocritical. We turn a blind eye to violence and injustice here at home and by our friends and allies abroad but Ukraine or Syria or Libya or Iraq suddenly calls for sanctimonious lectures about freedom and democracy and aspirations. Ukraine under Yanukovich is drifting back into Russia’s orbit and away from the West so it’s obvious why we’re pro-democracy there, but what about Bahrain and Qatar and the West Bank where people have been fighting repression and injustice for years? Where are you and Joe on those? I’m pro-Kiev demonstrators too, Mr. President, but not for the same reasons you are. I’m for any uprising anywhere by We the People to throw off the yoke of oppression and injustice and that’s what the people of Kiev are doing. They want the same things people everywhere want, from Occupy Wall Street to Tahrir Square to Pearl Square to Gaza: freedom, dignity and respect. They want government to listen to them, to address their needs and desires, not just the power brokers and elites. And like all uprisings, it’s always the State who resorts to violence whether it’s the NYPD or Assad’s army or Ukraine’s interior ministry forces, so there’s tremendous nobility in those Kiev protesters chanting Peaceful Protest! Peaceful Protest! as Ukraine’s security forces closed in on Independence Square, No different than our own Occupy protesters. It’s democracy in action. Kiev. Cairo. New York. Real power resides not in the State but in We the People, a lesson both sides keep learning.

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