Thursday, April 14, 2005

Some good news out of Iraq

A story on NPR yesterday revealed some good signs coming out of Iraq, but it's the sort of story that won't make big headlines. Not because the media are conspiring to give only bad news, but just because negative events -- like today's car bombing -- are inherently more dramatic and, therefore, headline-grabbing. Both types of stories deserve attention.

NPR reported that some Sunnis in Iraq are regretting that they didn't participate in the January elections in an effort to show their disapproval of the American-organized process. The story featured quotes from two Sunni man saying, we should have voted in the election, we'll be sure to vote in the next one.

Think about that.

I couldn't help a quick laugh when I heard it because it's so deceptively simple, but is really a huge step forward. When you think of all the negative predictions from people who oppose Bush's policy in Iraq -- it'll never work, the country is splitting apart, they'll never accept a Western-style democracy, and so on. And here, in such a short time, you now have Iraqis saying, I want to have some influence in my country...I had better vote. And that is what democracy is all about, really. It's not about good government -- there's no guarantee that good people will run for office or, if they do, that they'll be elected. It's not about having a government that does what you want -- some groups will always be dissatisfied. Democracy happens when people who want to have an effect on their country don't say, I'd better grab a gun, or I'd better snitch on my neighbor to the secret police, or I'd better bribe the right person, or I'd better keep quiet. It's when they say, I want to have some say in my country, so I'd better...vote, organize, protest, write a letter, contribute to a campaign, whatever.

There are still many more difficult months and years ahead, certainly, and we certainly don't know that the effort to re-plant democracy in Iraq will work. But that was a pretty amazing story, and one that is just as newsworthy as the bad news.

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