"Something Profound Is Happening"

June 26, 2009

The universe truly offers up some unexpected and amazing moments and, less than three weeks after I wrote of how impactful it was to watch the events in Tiananmen Square twenty years ago, I’m again watching something happen with the same feelings of awe and wonder.

It’s the outmatched kid standing up to the gutless bully.

I’ve been riveted, following the events in Iran with the same attention to which I devoted to the student protests in China – only the medium has changed from CNN to the internet. At this point, I know who Mohsen Makhmalbaf is and I think I might even be capable of spelling it without looking it up.

During the first few days of protests, I wondered if there would be an iconic moment a la Tank Man in ’89.

And then there was Neda.

Many commentators have noted that these protests have no leader, no fixed point toward which the masses are marching. And as the government took a more stern approach in handling the crisis last weekend, I wondered if this fledgling movement would be cowed.

And then the powers that be killed Neda, delivering the opposition a perfect and powerful symbol, one that has resonated around the world.

It’s, obviously, anyone’s guess as what is going to happen in Iran and there’s no shortage of folks taking a shot at the answer.

“Something profound is happening,” one of the numerous experts opined in a calm, measured fashion over the weekend.

If the Iranians succeed and gain more freedom – and no matter how much time might pass before such a thing happens – I have to think Neda will be there at every plot twist (and there will be a lot).

And if thirty years from now Iran is a stable, democratic society, then this girl who most of us didn’t know two weeks ago will have affected a number of lives that is staggering to ponder.

Peter Gabriel – Biko
from Plays Live

Sparse and haunting, Peter Gabriel’s tribute to South African anti-apartheid activist Stephen Bantu Biko, who was murdered while in police custody, is powerful, poignant, and fitting for not only Neda, but for all of the people courageously taking to the streets in Iran.

“You can blow out a candle
But you can’t blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher
Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko
Yihla Moja, Yihla Moja
The man is dead

And the eyes of the world are watching now”