The line has been drawn. Last night, Iran’s Ayatollah Khameni cracked his whip and demanded an end to the mass protests roiling across the country all week. With hundreds of thousands of blue-jeaned, Chuck-Taylored protesters in the streets of Tehran, a showdown is fast approaching.
Unlike at Tienanmen, these anti-authoritarian protesters are much greater in number and spread far wider. Also, they are urban, pro-Western, many are reportedly pro-American, and they are likely to face the guns of their own military tomorrow. The stakes in this nascent revolution are huge for young Iranians, already bloodied and likely to shed more tomorrow. In that, I wish them the best.
The stakes are also considerable for persons outside the country who have the greatest stake in fomenting a distorted image of a Muslim enemy.
Something about looking at the vast swathes of citizenry in the streets tells me that Iranian army commanders aren’t looking forward to this encounter, and I have an intuition – – call it a hope — that tomorrow will be bloodier for the regime than for the people.
In that case, imagine one iconic photograph, surfacing this weekend or soon after: A young Persian woman, perhaps without a headscarf, big-eyed and beautiful in blue jeans. She is perched upon a tank, smiling and waving. Her Chinese-made Converse Chuck Taylors bring a touch of the Ramones to the sandy beige of the painted armor plated vehicle. She waves to her countrymen, perhaps granted this chance by an Iranian army commander who has refused orders to fire on the crowd.
If we are blessed to see that photo, not everyone will cheer. For those whose livelihoods are dependent on what we used to insanely call “The War On Terror,” such a photo means they are going to have a bad year. Years of PR groundwork will have been trashed in the click of a digital camera. They’ll need to hurry back to the drawing board to gin up new demons to jiggle in the faces of those who are most susceptible to boogeyman politics. What else can AM hate radio or the Republican party do when their treasured “Axis Of Evil” is finally represented by a cute girl in gymshoes? How will Israel’s Likud party continue to leverage Iran into its own bloodthirst in Gaza or its settlement fever when Israel loses their photographic monopoly on hot Middle-East women posing with weapons? What will the Pentagon and the neocon hawks do when, as happened with the Soviet Union, the opposing team packs up and goes home?
Each would find new enemies, of course. That’s what paranoids do. But it would take time, and meanwhile, perhaps one repressive theocracy will have been relegated to the dustbin of history.