Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Foreign Affairs

Tyrants Clamping Down

As interest groups argue over who best represents democracy in the struggle for deciding who gets to decide what perks public employees get with their jobs, and as they compare their opponents to Nazis and other such tyrannous scum, very real fights are taking place against very real dictators throughout the world. Inspired by the apparent success of Egypt, protests are picking up from North Africa to the Far East. However, many of these regimes are not showing the type of relative restraint that was seen by Mubarak's government and the Egyptian military. In Libya, Moammar Kadhafi's thugs have been openly shooting at dissenters, including murdering mourners at a funeral. In China, the mere whisper of dissent has led to more internet clamp-downs and dozens of arrests. The Bahraini people have suffered some death and tragedy, in recent protests, but there is hope for talks now. Yemen spirals further into chaos. In Burma, recently-released pro-democracy leader Aung Suu Kyi is already receiving open death threats from the military junta ruling the nation. Similar events are playing out in Algeria, Oman, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Jordan, Gabon, and Kazakhstan-- some with more success than others.

Then, of course, there is Iran--- where lawmakers have started demanding that opposition leaders, such as former reformer president Khatami, should just be executed. Even as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad takes credit for the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, he has directed state security forces to arrest scores of dissenters and further regulate the internet. (H/T to Jon Stewart's recent piece on the Holocaust denier.)

The point is, as tyrants are clamping down on people fighting for the basic right to gather and say what is on their minds, it would do well for the people gathered in Madison to perhaps try to stop playing themselves up as champions of democracy and stop comparing their opposition to Nazis or Communists. Decrying the loss of some health benefits pales in the "championing democracy" category when you have pro-democracy leaders like Suu Kyi and Khatami worrying if they'll live to see next year, and neither Governor Walker nor the union leaders should have to suffer such insulting nomenclature when there are true thugs like Kadhafi and Ahmadinejad still wielding power in this world. Words matter. Use them carefully.
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