Dignity in the protest

(midnight – promoted by On The Bus)

Utrecht is a lively university town in The Netherlands. The medieval warehouses at canal level have been turned into cafes and above, are shops, street musicians, and a constant swirl of people.

One of Utrecht’s great landmarks is its Dom Tower, a surreal computer-generated-like gothic tower that dominates the landscape and the sky. As I said to my nephew, visiting me from NY, you don’t see this in Poughkeepsie. No, he said, you don’t.

Perhaps just as unlikely, in Poughkeepsie, would be running into a small band of Iranians seeking solidarity in another revolutionary attempt. Yesterday, though, there were 11 Iranians standing in front of St. Martin’s Cathedral in Utrecht, each holding the picture of someone killed in the protests in Iran. One of those faces was Neda, perhaps this century’s Anne Frank. Anne was on my mind, having been at the Secret Annex the day before and still thinking about Primo Levi’s observation . . .

One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered just as she did… Perhaps it is better that way: If we were capable of taking in the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live.”

Primo Levi

cross posted at Daily Kos

I could not help but walk up this group of people, and look into their somber faces. Thinking about how easy it is for the few to devastate the masses. How easy it is for us to say such horrors can never be allowed to happen again. . .  as the horrors continue to  happen over and over again. And then, to think how the experience of the Iranians could easily have been ours, under George W. Bush’s America. I am not so sure the dangers are over for us here. Despite all the Democrats. . . but that’s for another day.

Anyway. A young man with glasses, dark hair, and a very earnest look on his face walked up to me.

He had the kindest voice. Soft and warm. His face was smooth, his eyes clear. He said they weren’t soliticiting money. Afterall, money can only buy things, he said. He said Iranians like him wanted the pressure of public opinion. Political pressure exerted from people like me. That people like me were people, just like him.

And I thought: more people pleading, pouring out the same mantra: we want some say in our lives. We want some degree of freedom. We want . . . we want . . . we want . . . something better.

He said people speak of terrorists. Yes, I said. But who are they, I asked him. Who are the terrorists? When I see who’s doing all the killing and who’s doing the dying . . . and who’s leveling forests and depleting oceans and blowing off mountain tops . . . and he said it was a very good question.

I told him I wished him well and we shook hands goodbye. The young men and women in front of St. Martin’s Cathedral looked at me. They all said “thank you” and we shook hands. When I left, I had to, I just had to flash the peace sign.

I e-mailed Secretary Clinton. I told her that the brothers and sisters I met yesterday from Iran said they don’t want war or blood . . . shed. They want real help to peacefully assert their stake in their country’s politics and policies.

Imagine. That.


Skip to comment form

    • pfiore8 on June 25, 2009 at 12:28 pm


    • RiaD on June 25, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    for sharing this experience

    for making me think a bit differently


    handsome young man!

    • Edger on June 25, 2009 at 6:06 pm

  1. seeking consistency.  I have long ago convinced my whole being that all people on this earth are the same, equal, and deserving of a decent life, and that our entire purpose, like an ant hill, should be towards creating that environment.  

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