This past weekend hundreds of people celebrated Juneteenth at Virginia Avenue Park, which is a commemoration of the June 19, 1865 arrival of Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation that became effective Jan. 1, 1863. It took two-and-a-half years for word to be disseminated that the slaves were now free. There are various reasons given for the delay, from the murder of messengers, to the continued greed of the plantation owners who wanted one last crop collected. The best technology of the time for information distribution was horse and rider.
In the present day, as Americans across the country celebrated with barbecues, strawberry soda and fancy dress, halfway around the world another group of people rallied. But they rallied to throw off the yoke of a theocracy. They rallied to state their dissatisfaction with the government. In Iran, thousands, possibly millions, took to the streets to declare their desire for more freedom.
The images coming from Iran are shocking, appalling, invigorating and devastating. I have been consumed with the events of a country that I have no connection with, other than my humanity.
In the past 10 days I have watched the will of the people of Iran meet the blunt force of a baton. I have seen the effects of terror tactics on crowds, and then watched as those same crowds came to the collective realization that they are more powerful as a group, than the militia facing them. As the video footage comes in, showing the consequences of that awareness, I cheered watching the people, literally with sticks and stones in hand, push into the oncoming militia, and make them turn tail and run.
By use of their collective will, the people made the militia show its true colors. Yellow. It is the color of cowards who hide behind riot gear, guns and the anonymity provided by helmets with facemasks and the ever present cloud of fear.
I’ve never been to war. I’ve not had military training. I have no experience with civil uprisings. I can only imagine what it must be like to have militia marching in the streets and to feel the oppression of a regime so comprehensively in my life.
But today, I have a greater ability to imagine than I did last week. Today I can see, in almost real time, exactly what is happening, half a world away. It is being broadcast by cell phone video, by cell phone text messaging, by the Internet and satellites.
The power structure of Iran does not allow the citizenry to have guns. They have no Second Amendment or its equivalent in Iran. This is so the government can maintain the illusion of their power with riot gear, guns and tear gas.
But the awareness of rational people cannot be overcome with guns in the face of today’s easy publication of video. Almost every video that I have watched has shown men and women with their phones held high, capturing images that will be shared with the world. The cellphone is the weapon of choice today.
Iranian authorities have slowed the flow of information within the country, and internationally. They have done so by restricting the telecommunications systems, the banning of foreign journalists and the shutting down of text messaging capabilities to a trickle. This will not last.
The flow of information right now is like a slow water leak, but eventually it will become a stream, then a river, and finally a torrent. The reservoir of images and information in Iran is growing. The immediate reality of the current events will be shared globally over the coming months.
But a movement only needs one image. That image arrived this weekend in the shocking death of Neda Agha-Soltan. It was a death that was watched around the world with all of its graphic, painful, reality. In under two minutes of captured video, we see the death of a young woman, and hear the pleading of her father. Her death has become a symbolic event, her killing personifies the oppression, the picture of her blood covered face has become the face of a movement.
As more and more people both within and outside the Iranian borders are made aware of the brutality of the regime, its legitimacy weakens. The consent of the governed is being taken back and with it comes the unalienable right to reform.
Those in power always try to control and manipulate reality. That is what delayed the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation, and that is what sparked the events in Iran. But whether it be slave owners in Texas who put off the inevitable, or the mullahs in Iran who want to keep their citizens disenfranchised, the voices, and images, of freedom keep making progress.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.