J Walking

J Walking


Peppermint Stick Prime Minister

posted by David Kuo

In the early summer of 1989, on a humid night, as China erupted on the other side of the world, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, I sat with several hundred other people, eating peppermint stick ice cream, listening to a woman from Pakistan talk about democracy as a moral force.
She was 35. She was Pakistan’s Prime Minister. She was a Harvard grad. I knew little about her when I sat down to dinner. I was a lowly intern working in Sen. Edward Kennedy’s office. Along with the other interns I got an unexpected seat at the dinner after our ushering duties were through.
But as I listened that night to this woman who really, really loved her peppermint stick ice cream (from a place in Cambridge called Brighams), I felt like I was hearing a political prophet.
She talked about being a former political prisoner not to engender pity or good will
but to remind us that democracy is precious and never to be taken for granted. And she proposed something that night – an association of democratic nations that would fight for democracy. Fight not with arms and with bloodshed and by taking political prisoners, but fight with foreign aid and fight with teams of foreign observers who would report on the condition of democracies and fight with economic sanctions.
She said she had heard that Muslim countries cannot have a working democracy. Then she paused. She stepped back from the podium and held out her arms and said that we should look at her. “I stand before you,” I recall her saying, “as a Muslim woman, the elected prime minister of 100 million Muslims, and a living refutation of such arguments and notions.”
She quoted from a Pakistani poet that night – I don’t recall the poet’s name but I wrote down the quote, “Life is reduced to a rivulet under dictatorship. But, in freedom, it becomes a boundless ocean.”
I’ll never forget that night. Benazir Bhutto reminded me, an international student, why I was in college, why I was studying, why I wanted to make a difference in the world. I wanted to take the kind of stand for freedom and for democracy that she took. It seemed that would be a life worth living. She proved, to the end of her days, that it was.



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Brian Horan

posted December 27, 2007 at 9:27 pm


It’s too bad that the only thing the Bushies & the Republican presidential candidates have done is beat the war drums for Iran. Not once prior to the intelligence estimate being released on Iran’s NON-nuclear-arms program have Republicans mentioned Pakistan in their debates.
The Democrats have.
The so-called ‘war on terror’ has it’s epicenter around Pakistan and Afghanistan; even though you’d never know it by watching Fox News or listening to Republicans (maybe with the exception of today).
Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Osama bin Laden who is probably hiding out near or within Pakistan’s borders is also more popular than their de facto prime minister.
We’ll see how long our national attention can focus on this. My guess is that Republicans will be talking about invading Iran in another week.



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Jillian

posted December 27, 2007 at 10:28 pm


And you became a conservative anyway?



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Larry Parker

posted December 27, 2007 at 10:46 pm


Gen. Musharraf:
J’accuse!



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Donny

posted December 27, 2007 at 10:46 pm


You become a conservative when you gain a sense of moral worth and when right and wrong is not considered hate speech. In other words, when you leave liberalism/progressive-ism and what has become of the Demo-apathetic party. Bhutto was killed by a Muslim any way you paint it.



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Terri

posted December 27, 2007 at 11:38 pm


I was so profoundly sad to hear of this death. She was an inspiration to me.



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maxcat06

posted December 28, 2007 at 10:05 am


Donny, did it ever cross your mind that hatred is hatred, no matter who spews it?



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Paul of Potomac

posted December 28, 2007 at 10:49 am


Here is a nice article in the Harvard Crimson written about her about 10 years ago. http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=94634. She was a remarkable woman who broke through many barriers. I do not know whether the corruption charges against her husband and her were real or trumped up. Nevertheless, she was a voice for reason, moderation, and morality-something we do not hear often from the Middle East or even in some parts of our own government. She understaood and admired many of the democratic ideals of the West, and was committed to advancing human ( and women’s ) rights around the world.
In response to Jillian. William Churchill has said that if you are not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, and if you are not a conservative at 40 you have no head.
I have passed both benchmarks, and have my own revisionist view. If you cannot incorporate, or at least respec, the best of both views, you have no soul.



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Paul of Potomac

posted December 28, 2007 at 10:53 am


http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=94634
The website had a period. Try this.



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Larry Parker

posted December 28, 2007 at 12:27 pm


Paul of Potomac:
(O/T)
What if you take the opposite path of Churchill — conservative at 20, liberal at 40 (39, close enough …)?



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Jillian

posted December 28, 2007 at 3:38 pm


That saying is silly conservative dogma, Paul, in that it proposes that you get beyond your selfinterests. (Which seems to be the case for most conservative people.) I refer you to John Kenneth Galbraith’s little saying about conservative thought, whom I actually got to know in 2003.
Well, I apologize for my impatience at watching ‘conservatives’ spend my lifetime reinventing the wheel- on taxation, discovering the relative efficiency of social democratic institutions, on torture and bigotry, on civil decency, on reading the Bible as a sacred guidebook rather than a newspaper, on killing people, on occultism vs science, on the letter vs the spirit of the law, on one limitation-imposing sectarianism versus another, on their failures in raising their children (and their maladapted children then having to overcome them and raise themselves), on the value of creativity and healing, on getting beyond racism and religionism, and so on. You know, civilization.
I’m certainly more deeply liberal now than I was at 20. The farther I get in my spiritual life, the more liberal I get. Fear and limitation and mortality and discipline, and responsibility are only excuses, not justifications, for conservatives’ rigidity and regression and spiritual parasitism, for their magical beliefs and vanity. Wisdom is not about those things, not about imposing chains on people.



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Jillian

posted December 28, 2007 at 3:40 pm


err, ‘never get beyond’ in that first sentence.



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c kitty

posted December 28, 2007 at 11:26 pm


Jillian
I experienced the same thing — the more I fell in love with God, the more liberal I became, although not particularly aware of the transition at the time. In getting closer to God, I shed so much of the bigotry, fearfulness, anger, insecurity that seems to characterize so much of conservative thinking. I think it is an intertwined process. Too many people characterize liberalism as moral libertinism, rather than what it really is about, a common respect and concern for all who live on this earth.



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Larry Parker

posted December 29, 2007 at 1:00 pm


c kitty:
In my PERSONAL life, I am profoundly conservative. I’m even a teetotaler!



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Doug

posted December 30, 2007 at 11:25 am


Thanks for that memory. It reminded me of the loss when my first reaction wasn’t to mourn but to get ready for more bad days.



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Khalil

posted January 20, 2008 at 6:59 pm


Benazir Bhutto had been great inspiration for Pakistani peoples,because she had bee a catalyst of change,democracy,peace,welfare and liberal Muslim Society.She laid down he lif in this stuggle like his father did (Who was first populary elected PM of Pakistan,was hanged by Miliarty Dictatorship).She was hope for millions,her sad demise has shattered the dreams and aspirations of people of Paksitan for better and peaceful future.I want to add it here,Dream of peaceful and liberal world is dream of every huma bein on earth and she laid down her life for such a great values and now it is duty of every one of us to call for comprehensive international investigation so that culpirts could be brought to justice.If she wont ge justice then there would be no more Benazir in Muslim as well as third world countries to struggle for democracy and Peace.Pls support just cause and support he part’s demand for UNA based investigation not by Military Government of Musharaf of Pakistan.
Thanks



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Michelle

posted April 10, 2008 at 8:07 pm


Thank you, David. That was beautiful. Benazir’s courage, faith, sacrifice, and struggle will always be an inspiration to those who knew and loved her…and to those whose lives she touched in so many beautiful ways. God bless you.
— Michelle
Founder of http://www.SupportBenazir.org



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Harold J. Wilson

posted April 12, 2008 at 6:58 am


Benazir Bhutto was another Light That Failed for Pakistan. She was an excellent public speaker but had no political will. That is why she was prosecuted for corruption in Switzerland, Spain and in Pakistan, along with her widely despised husband, Asif Zardari. Her father was equally corrupt and he ruined the Pakistani Civil Service by politicizing it, he nationalized private education ( for the most part) in Pakistan and as a result they have no internationally accredited universities at present. His land reforms were a fraud and he was finally brought down by his abusive arrogance.
ZA Bhutto’s daughter lived up to her father’s non-accomplishments by doing nothing for women, nothing to halt the growth of fanatical madrassahs, nothing for the economy, and everything for the husband who is generally suspected of having ordered the murder of her own brother. She had a certain dignity and presence and the shrewdness to make friends with journalists like Christina Lamb. Otherwide, she was a total non-leader. As the ‘Mohtarma’ or little mother of the poor, she had the same kind of following that Eva Peron in Argentina did. And she was worth perhaps less to them in terms of results that coun ted.



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