By Aurangzeb Qureshi
Having had the luxury of being brought up in the West, I consider myself fortunate to not have lived under brutal dictators, self-serving monarchs, repressive laws and bloody conflicts. I always had the freedom to partake in protests, express dissent through writing and organize for particular causes. My personal liberties were never threatened and even airport customs has been kind post-9/11. In fact, it came to a point where I began to take my liberty for granted. It was not until the revolutions across the Atlantic that I began to fully appreciate the extent of my freedoms and the sacrifice that is required to maintain them.
As the cry for liberty, freedom and prosperity in the Arab world continues to reverberate around the globe, I cannot not help but notice a Western tone of unintentional self-assurance and a mild superiority – a kind of democratic hubris. The evolution of western democracy over hundreds of years may partly justify this attitude. Yet, given our relative democratic ‘superiority’ we sometimes forget that our system, although better in comparison, is not perfect. More importantly, we forget that healthy democratic evolution is only possible by taking a stand, expressing dissent through various means and continually working to ensure that the government remains in the hands of its citizens.
Imagine if millions of Americans rose from their slumber and questioned the role of the military industrial complex that fomented conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the Syrians could brave a rain of bullets to organize protests across the country to call an end to monarchical rule, Why can’t Americans do the same to demonstrate their distaste for the ‘corporatocracy’ whose primary motive is profit at the expense of those less fortunate?
Imagine if the mothers of American soldiers organized en masse to demand the return of their sons from wars that have only caused pain and suffering for both sides. If Saudi women can take on the repressive Saudi monarchy by using the power of social media to demand their right drive, why can’t the mothers of American soldiers do the same to bring their sons back from unjust military misadventures?
Imagine if thousands of Americans gathered in droves at the Washington Monument to demand an end to torture and the closure of Guantanamo Bay. If the Egyptians could challenge their dictatorship to demand a fair and accountable government at Tahrir Square, why can’t Americans do the same and hold President Barack Obama accountable on his promises to close the offshore torture camp?
Imagine if Americans took a stand against mainstream media that only serves to pander to corporate interests at the expense of the truth. If Bahrainis and Yemenis can risk their lives for a democratic government that allows citizens the right to dissent, why can’t Americans demand media that believes in holding the government accountable, not media that is accountable to the government?
Imagine if Americans took to the streets protesting against the actions of Wall Street bankers who, in their lust for capital, brought down an entire economy that is still recovering. If the Arabs can protest the lavish and opulent lifestyles of their murderous dictators, why can’t Americans express their dissatisfaction with corporate greed?
Imagine if every citizen in America, black and white, Republican and Democrat, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, white collar and blue collar worked towards democratic evolution thus maintaining a democracy that is healthy, vibrant and by the people.
Such imaginary scenarios are not exclusive to America, but apply to Western democracy as a whole. The only way we can maintain pride in our system is if we continue to make it better.
After all, the Arabs that have shown that turning imagination into reality is not entirely impossible.
– Aurangzeb Qureshi is a freelance journalist, political commentator and director of marketing at the Foundation for Democratic Advancement. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.democracychange.com.