In the last several weeks, there have been a shocking number of what I can only call terrorist attacks here in the U.S. An anti-choice protester murdered a doctor in a church. A Muslim convert murdered two soldiers. A racist bigot murdered a guard in the Holocaust Museum. All in such a short time…I began to wonder if our nation was truly headed for disaster in the form of sectarian strife and war.
Then I heard about the election in Iran.
It’s truly an illuminating counter-example. The election may, indeed, have been stolen by Ahmadinejad – so I certainly understand the urge to protest, even riot about the results. But it shows how weak the respect for the rule of law is in Iran as compared to our own society. After all, when’s the last time you heard of such massive demonstrations and widespread violence here?
One might assume that the difference is the importance of the event – a Presidential election, after all, is fairly significant, so would seem to inspire greater anger when it goes awry. I don’t think that’s the real difference, though. We’ve, arguably, had our own Presidential elections stolen. I believe that there is ample evidence that Bush supporters used fraud and other illegal means to change the outcome of the vote in Ohio in 2000, shifting those electoral votes from Gore to Bush, and thus changing the overall results for the nation – and that’s not even considering the travesty of Florida’s election that same year, or the unquestioned fact that Gore won the popular vote. A great many others believe that our current President is constitutionally unqualified for the office under the “natural born citizen” restriction – though I personally feel you have to look at the evidence through a blindfold to believe that nonsense.
Disagree with me? Think that Bush won fair and square, and Obama is secretly a Kenyan atheist Muslim Indonesian socialist criminal? Fine, leave me a comment and we can discuss it – but it doesn’t matter for this. The real point is that significant numbers of our population have reason to believe that one or more Presidential elections were stolen…and their responses to that were overwhelmingly non-violent. They write letters, post on blogs, complain around the water cooler, file hopeless lawsuits, whatever. What they don’t do is go out and riot.
And that’s the right answer. Frankly, even if those elections were stolen, I think the damage to our society from such anarchism is worse even than having a criminal occupy our nation’s highest office. Al Gore showed a similar belief when he quietly accepted the Supreme Court’s decisions against him that gave Bush the Presidency, as did John McCain in failing to support or even acknowledge the birther controversy.
In Iran and many other countries, the result of political disagreement is rioting and destruction. That trickles down – I once heard a military intelligence officer bemoan the difficulty of tracking terrorist incidents in Kosovo, because it was too hard to separate someone throwing a grenade at their neighbor’s house because they were the wrong ethnicity or religion from those throwing a grenade because the neighbor’s dog barked too long at night. It is a credit to our nation that the violent political statements of lone lunatics are significant enough to be noticed.