For the better part of this week, I have been gripped by events in Iran, a country I've never visited, and until very recently, knew very little about.
I've never been a fan of the 24/7 news cycle as practiced by the major cable networks. Partly because I'm not much of a television watcher, but also because I've always found their coverage shallow. While things are changing constantly, most of the time, the rate of change is not dramatic enough to warrant the coverage 24/7 necessitates to fill the time, and so we get endless repetition of the same insignificant information. This week, what could have been an opportunity to take advantage of a massive audience hungry for news, and endless space in which to cover it, instead exposed the weakness inherent in the system.
When I got my iPhone, my mother's little helper, I bypassed the cable news era and went directly to the blogosphere. And while there is certainly a lot of blather, there is also a lot of excellent news coverage, more than I could possibly absorb. It is times like this, when a news story of such historic proportions breaks, that the blogosphere shows its strengths.
I cannot recall a time when I've been so absorbed by the news, including our most recent election, which was undeniably exciting. Andrew Sullivan, and Twitter have been indispensable to me this week. Andrew Sullivan is invaluable for news coverage, while Twitter has especially has made it clear to me in a very tangible way what a small place the world has become. I have been following a few reliable Iranian Tweeters, and in a week's time, have become attached to these students and reporters, whose real names I do not know, and whom I will never meet. Becoming a mother activated my neural worry pathways, and I fear for these strangers' lives. I am in awe of their bravery, and pray for their safety. When they go quiet for a few hours, I get a bit anxious, and am relieved to see them surface again to tell what they've experienced on the streets of Tehran, or Shiraz.
Today we went out for lunch, and David rightly scolded me to put the phone away. This is not something I would normally do at mealtime, but I haven't been able to help myself this week. The kids asked what I was looking at, and we explained as best we could what is happening in Iran. Sarah asked, “Why can't people just leave if they don't like what's happening?”
The conversation then turned to a discussion of repressive regimes, and we tried to explain that it was not so simple as packing your bags. Leaving home is a complicated decision that few make lightly. Sometimes people don't have the luxury of a choice, and even if you do, you don't necessarily want to leave. Sarah then posed a philosophical question, asking if we would rather stay in our homeland, or go someplace where you could be free. We spoke of how sometimes, as in the case of David's and my forbears, you leave because you see the writing on the wall, and that our country is built on the backs of immigrants who left home in search of something better. But sometimes, staying and fighting is the right action.
This week especially, I've found myself thinking again about our last election—because I do believe that in some small way President Obama stirred some longing among Iranians—and again marveling at what great good fortune I have, that by accident of birth, or karma, I ended up here. Our last election was the most exciting one in my lifetime, and a stunning example of what ought to happen when people don't like the way their country is being run. The peaceful transfer of power that we take for granted is really miraculous, and not necessarily the norm for much of the world.
We've had so much rain the past few weeks on the East coast, and it is fraying everyone's nerves. At this point, the rain seems almost Biblical, and I can't help but feel that God is crying for Iran. We are lucky to have nothing better to complain about than shitty weather, when another part of the world seems to be unraveling. And I also found myself feeling grateful that it was inconceivable to my children that the way they experience the world could be any other way.