Well, there you have it! Once again we find ourselves back at the origins, where modern politics and religion got their start, back to the birthplace of Western civilization - home to ancient Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Assyria and Persia... or modern day Iran.
From the bosom of these ancient empires emerged an overpowering combination of ruling elites, theocratic and political, who laid the disparate foundations for civilized authority ever since. And, now we see these hegemons playing out their hands in full-color force, surreptitiously displayed before our eyes on virtual communities and social networking portals born in the West, and exported far and wide - portals that themselves have forcefully subverted the authoritarian control attempted by Iranian theocratic and political establishments.
Of course we are shocked, horrified and excited by such scenes of emergent revolutionary chaos; but grateful that this exercise in democratic rebellion is having a chance to lets its voice be heard around the world. And, why are we all so engrossed? Of course, we are rooting for the human spirit to overcome the hegemonic power of its overlord. And we yearn for all people to experience freedom from the slavery represented by such repressive regimes. And certainly, we think of what it would mean if the threat of a nuclear Iran could be erased within a few weeks or months, if the protests are successful.
But, it may also be the case that we fear for our own covert enslavement to the selfsame systems of political and religious authority - systems we both love and hate, and continuously fight to moderate. And why are we upset in America that our fearless leader (Barack Obama) is treading so tenderly on the issue of interfering in the Iranian demonstrations? Do we want to be seen as more assertive, more controlling, more manipulative, like our distant cousins - the Iranian hegemons? Perhaps, we ourselves distrust our own assumptions of freedom. Maybe we even long (unconsciously) for more overt control in our own society - be it in the form of nationalized healthcare, financial regulation, government ownership of production, homeland security, etc.
And who are those arguing for greater US intervention in the Iranian situation, the same anointed among us who brought us the Patriot Act, Homeland Security, domestic wiretapping, those who fought for the initial invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq, who sang to us about 'bombing Iran,' who suggested banning books from the Anchorage public library, and even now champion the right of domestic militiamen to bear arms (even semi-automatic weapons) against their fellow countrymen and women here in the USA. There appears historically, existentially, to be some moral equivalency between religious extremism and fanatic politics in any statist context, whether in a Machiavelli, a Stalin, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ahmadinejad, Saddam Hussein, our own outspoken domestic defenders of torture, or vice presidential candidates who are religiously-driven to vilify their opposition even to the incitement of domestic terror. In all there seems to be a sense of moral righteousness, of moral indignation, motivating the fanatic to act on their beliefs.
And have we not already intervened forcefully enough in the current strife in Iran? After all, it is our 'new media' technologies, born in the USA, that have given voice and color to the Iranian people's struggle. No matter what we think, our influence is felt around the globe, almost without pause these days. This is the benefit, the legacy, and the challenge of our own hegemonic role in world affairs. The question remains: who is controlling whom? And, where how do we understand freedom?
I am not seeking to justify the Persian-Iranian regime, nor defend our own President's cautiousness abroad or aggressiveness at home. I am just trying to sort through the complex relations that both repel us and attract us to the events now unfolding - globally and domestically - and our own awkward ambivalence about 'involvement'. I am raising the question about the relationship between freedom and authority, and the proper exercise of power (political or religious) in a 'civilized' nation. Have we not seen the dragon's head of our own religious conservatives this last election, raising the specter of a new era in theocratic rule right here in the land of the free?