I was scanning through Al Jazeera’s timeline of the “unrest” in Tunisia:
…and was struck by the differences between how others around the world take a stand as compared to we self-centered, it’s-all-about-us Americans. Back on December 17, Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire after the police confiscated the fruit and vegetables he was selling without a permit. A few seldom-used synapses fired, and seconds later I was recalling the image of a Buddhist monk self-immolating on the streets of Saigon during the Vietnam War. Back in the day, every day, Don Corsette made us read newspaper and magazine stories about that unfortunate war and then find the village or city mentioned, and stick a pushpin in a fold-out National Geographic map.
…on December 22, Houcine Falhi commits suicide by electrocuting himself in the middle of a demonstration, after shouting “No to misery, no to unemployment!” Some police killings during demonstrations that follow help uncork a long-simmering resentment against the under-the-radar government of Ben Ali, and the next thing you know is he’s off to that paradise in the sand, that end of the road for exiled tyrants like Idi Amin, dear old Saudi Arabia.
Now here in America, suicides like that, whether attempted or accomplished, whether mundane or spectacular, would have maybe made the local news on the same day of the event. Finis, khalas, that would have been the end of it. The only way to accomplish the same sort of notoriety here in America is to kill others, in large quantities. And even then it’s not the stuff that triggers revolution. I was reminded of that after reading an editorial by Bob Herbert in yesterday’s New York Times:
I had completely forgotten that crazy Seung-Hui Cho (apologies if “crazy” is an inappropriate diagnosis) horrifically killed 32 at Virginia Tech, just a few short years ago. We have been conditioned to move along (there’s nothing to see here folks), that there is nothing more to reflect upon once the propagandists of our mainstream media have exhausted their well-worn reservoirs of hyperbole (Thom – I know that is a mixed, mixed-up metaphor). Now, with the attempted assassination of a Tucson congresswoman by the equally weird Jared Loughner (look at a side-by-side photo with Glenn Beck if you’re needing to be seriously creeped-out) more than a week old and quickly fading from our public discourse, we’re about to again run into the dead-end of Americans’ severely limited attention span.
But before you move along, please read the recollections of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., about the day his uncle was killed. There is nothing new under the sun, and we are again where we once were, on November 22, 1963:
Maybe it is time for another revolution. Maybe it is time to send all our tyrants — and they come in all shapes and sizes even in God-blessed America — to that same Saudi resort where Idi Amin lived out the last years of his life.
But probably not until after the Super Bowl…
– Monsieur d’Nalgar