01 January 2010

Looking back at 2009

The year just ended was one in which two very different countries experienced radical upheaval, each in its own way.

In the United States, I would sum up the year by saying: The grown-ups are back in charge. Gone was the juvenile bravado of "Bring it on!" Gone was the embarrassment of a President who believed evolution and global warming to be hoaxes. Gone was the filling of top government posts with unqualified hacks based on religion. Gone was war planning by gut instinct and hearing the voice of God; gone was setting policy on reproductive rights and stem-cell research on the basis of Bronze-Age religious taboos.

Obama's lifting of Bush's restrictions on stem-cell research will, in the long run, avert more death and suffering than any health-care reform. One may disagree with his decision to escalate in Afghani-stan, but by all accounts it was based on meticulous assessment of information and on long, sober consideration (dismissed by some rightists as "dithering"), in contrast to Bush's gut-feeling decison-making and disdain for experts. Obama's personal attendance at Copenhagen showed that our country has come back to reality and is resolved to help rather than obstruct and lie. The lifting of the global gag rule on abortion showed the same in a different context. The health-reform bill has many serious shortcomings (due solely, please note, to the fact that the Senate's filibuster rules forced the Democrats into absurd compromises despite a huge majority), but once in place it can be improved. None of these things would have happened if Bush were still President and the Republicans still controlled Congress.

The new government inherited an economy in recession, an exploding deficit, and a national debt almost doubled from its level in 2000 -- the fruits of the previous administration's gross incompetence and irresponsibility. The recession has ended and signs of recovery are everywhere, though unemployment is only just now beginning to retreat. Had it not been for the measures the Democrats carried out, we might well be in a full-blown depression now.

The list of issues still to be dealt with is daunting: DADT, re-regula-tion of the financial sector, a coherent anti-terrorism policy, that crushing national debt. We need a jobs bill (Congress may take one up this month). But much has been done. And this was only the first year of the government being fully in the Democrats' hands.

On the other side of the world, in Iran, we have been seeing the truth of John F. Kennedy's wise aphorism: a government which makes peaceful revolution impossible makes violent revolution inevitable. A blatantly-rigged election in June served as a catalyst which unleashed the pent-up frustration of thirty years under repressive theocratic rule. Protests quickly erupted in the giant metropolis of Tehran, where crowds were estimated by Western media to be as large as one to two million; the movement rapidly spread to smaller cities across the nation.

The stolen election, in and of itself, could hardly have motivated such a response. The "defeated" candidates Mousavi and Karroubi were hardly revolutionaries, and in any case the "Presidency" for which they ran against Ahmadinejad is subordinate in authority to the religious establishment. It rapidly became clear that the challenge was to the theocracy itself.

The regime responded to peaceful protest with a campaign of mass arrests, killings, beatings, gang-rape of political prisoners of both genders, and efforts to suppress the internet-based technologies such as Twitter and YouTube which the protesters were using to organize the uprising and to get information to the outside world. There have been times since June when it appeared that these measures had cowed the people into quiescence, but those who knew Iran and remembered the similar progression of the 1978-1979 revolution knew better. In December the uprising came roaring back with full force, more explicitly radical in its aims and more willing to answer violence with violence than before.

The uprising's potential repercussions extend far beyond Iran itself (more on that in a later posting), but the new US government has responded circumspectly, condemning the regime's brutality while carefully avoiding any threat of overt intervention which the mullahs could exploit. I shudder to think how blunderers like Bush and Cheney might have handled this situation if they were still in charge.

In other realms:

European-Union-wide elections showed startling support for anti-Islamist and pro-national-sovereignty "minor" parties, at least in Britain and the Netherlands. Religion asserted its moral values, and we learned something about jihadist recruitment methods. Islam's law on apostasy made news in England and Ohio. Closer to home, the PUMA phenomenon petered out. Religious terrorism escalated with the murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Fort Hood shootings, and there were portents of more to come.

On a lighter note, the right wing found a new enthusiasm, Barney Frank had the best line of the year, and adultery was so rampant among Republican politicians that it's amazing they had any energy left over to rant about the threat gays pose to marriage. Onward to 2010!


Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

Terrific review of 2009. God, I hope we don't have to put up with this nonsense in 2010.

Love that Barney Frank quote. He's one of a kind and I wish we had more like him.

01 January, 2010 14:29  
Blogger Sue said...

this was a great read Infidel! I am very optimistic about 010, I beleive its gonna be a great year and an even greater next 3!

Happy New Year!!

01 January, 2010 15:45  

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