With events unfolding in Iran, we watch and wish for freedom for their people. But in thinking over their experience with a fraudulent presidential election and contrasting it with our own election scandals, perhaps we should cconclude that we are the ones who need the freedom.
I applaud the courage of the Iranians to stand up to a corrupt government and demand the truth as to who won their election. Some of them have lost their lives for holding the conviction that a life without the freedom to seek the truth was worth risking.
What about us?
Though there were demonstrations against the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore, which decided the 2000 election, and the 2001 inauguration of President George W. Bush, they were nowhere near the scale of what Iranian reformers have amassed in size or passion. For the most part, we took a number of questionable decisions, all of which favored Bush, on the chin without any semblance of demand for our right to fair elections:
- Despite the state of Florida's law that elections as close as the one between Bush and Al Gore had automatic recounts, over one-third of Florida's counties never complied.
- Despite the state law allowing a candidate to ask for hand recounts and the state's jurisdiction in the selection of electors, the federal courts took over and rejected all recounts.
- Despite a thorough 2001 recount of all ballots by a consortium of news organizations which found that Gore had received more votes than Bush, few media sources revealed this information because of the attacks of 9/11 and doubts as to whether the public should know that its commander-in-chief was not legitimately elected.
How free are we in this country if we are too timid to demand that we receive the president that we elected?
We are a free nation in many ways, but our freedom ends when we ask for what those in power would prefer to keep from us. Attempts to get the truth about the John Kennedy assassination resulted in the government whitewashes known as the Warren Report and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The same could be said of the 9/11 Report as well.
Gays are still not free to marry in forty-four states. Innocent people sit in prison because they could not land the best attorneys or they were victims of police or prosecutorial corruption. Millions in the United States are not free to receive preventative medical treatment because they cannot get health insurance.
We cannot forget bloodshed in our own nation when people have made demands of the government. National Guardsmen and police officers killed college students at Kent State and Jackson State, respectively, in 1970 after students protested the United States invasion of Cambodia. Certainly, this history should make us pause.
But therein lies the heart of the matter: if we pause to exercise our rights, we cannot say we are truly free.