Still True Grit

by Jon L. Denby

Photo by Andrea Bruce for the New York TimesAfter witnessing the tumultuous events in Cairo, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times found his way to Bahrain. There he continued to witness the almost unbelievable determination of people to free themselves from their tyrannical rulers:

At one hospital, I met a paraplegic who is confined to a wheelchair. He had been hit by two rubber bullets and was planning to return to the democracy protests for more.

And on the roundabout on Sunday, I met Ali, a 24-year-old on crutches, his legs swathed in bandages, limping painfully along. A policeman had fired on him from 15 feet away, he said, and he was still carrying 30 shotgun pellets that would eventually be removed when surgeons weren’t so busy with other injuries. Ali flinched each time he moved — but he said he would camp at the roundabout until democracy arrived, or die trying.

The previous day the police had opened fire on demonstrators there at Pearl Square (the Bahrain version of Tahrir Square), killing at least five and injuring many more. The regime in Bahrain, after witnessing the fall of Mubarak at the hands of his people, was not taking any chances. They were determined to crush any pro-democracy movement from the outset.

The very next day the demonstrators marched toward the square again, fully expecting to get shot down by the police. They stepped forth into the open. The police were there, but instead of firing live ammunition as they had the day before, they shot rubber bullets and tear gas, and then fled.  The people surged forward into the square. The forces of democracy had retaken Pearl Square through sheer grit and determination.

It seems President Obama also did his part. He reportedly called the King of Bahrain after reports of the shootings surfaced. It is not known exactly what he said to the king, but afterward there were no more mass shootings of pro-democracy demonstrators. Word spread throughout the country that Obama had intervened, and as a result the people of Bahrain expressed their gratitude.

Bahrain is now one of the many new battlegrounds in this democratic revolution sweeping across the Middle East. What began in Tunisia, and what recently toppled the Pharaoh of Egypt, has now spread to Libya, Iran, and Yemen. Accordingly, the regimes of those countries have acted with savage brutality to stop any democratic revolution in its tracks.

Obama, the Congress, and the American people must show the same grit that these demonstrators have demonstrated. America must extend forth its hand to the people of the Middle East and aid them in their struggle to throw off their despots. The American government, long the underwriter of such despotic governments, must now use its vast power and leverage to “persuade” these same governments to turn power over to their people and to do so peacefully. The American people, for their part, should reach out to these courageous revolutionaries across the Internet to aid their just cause in any way possible.

This has become a test of determination, both for the forces of democratic change and for those dark forces aligned against such change. There are few times in history that present such a stark contrast between good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice. This is one of those times.