“The whole world is watching” is a chant that many of us shouted as we marched and protested in vain to stop the Iraq war before it began. The phrase indicated both a belief that it was important for the outside world to see that there was resistance within the United States to President Bush’s reckless policies, as well as a fact that through the power of phones and video cameras that there was no act of aggression by the police that would not be recorded and put on the internet for world consumption.
Now President Obama has used that community activist phrase on the government of Iran in hopes that it might give heart to those protesting as well as a reminder to the Iranian religous and political figures that as much as they try to suppress information about the murder and incarceration of protesters it will still be seen by billions of people around the world.
Our President used another phrase that is perhaps one of the most striking progressive statements of the 21st century. Offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., the proclaimation reads: The Moral Arc of the Universe is long but it bends towards Justice. As an African American, only our current President could have the moral authority and personal witness to proclaim this truth to the Iranian people and not have it sound false or self serving (imagine if Senator McCain or President Bush tried trotting out this line).
After the Lebanese electon and before the Iranian one I wrote about the Obama effect on Middle Eastern elections. Tobin Harshaw of the Opinionator at the NYTimes reported that some Bush officials are now claiming that it was the hard power of the Iraq war and subsequent “nascent democracy” in Iraq that caused these protest. The fact that hardlner Ahmadinejad was was elected over a moderate candidate after the invasion of Iraq and that Iran’s power in the region has increased since the invason doesn’t seem to phase this neo-con fantasy of history.
Instead it is clear that it is the election and leadership of our current president with his history of opposition to the Iraq war and the triumph of justice that his election represents to our own country, which is supplying the soft power of hope that America is able to provide to the pro-democracy forces in iran.
The whole world is watching, hoping, and believing that the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice. America is now helping to bend the world in the right direction.