Would you have the courage to face death for your beliefs? Would you stand up because it was the right thing to do? If the Middle East has taught us anything over the past two years, it is that the people of these emerging democracies are bravery personified. In Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Iraq, common people have born the most violent adversarial governments to instigate, create, and establish a new way of life.
The recent Syrian Unrest reflects the Arab Spring in all its pain and hope. As Bashar al-Assad’s government and military butcher the people for twenty straight days, the call for democracy is growing even louder, finally reaching the dormant UN council. The courage of the people, who take to the streets at the risk of imminent death, as well as having their homes and businesses ransacked, poses an interesting question. Do Americans have the same courage to risk their life for the common good if ever our democracy was at risk?
In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, the main protagonist John Proctor is faced with the decision of death by hanging if he refuses to admit to the State’s false claim of witchcraft. If he signs the confession, he would lose his reputation and pride, but be able to live for his expecting wife and children. He has the choice to live and care for his children or accept death to stop an oppressive regime of terror and state hysteria. He chooses his death to restore the individual consciousness as the most powerful catalyst for positive societal change.
I always have a difficult time with this decision because part of his motivation is the spite and disdain for the government. He gives in to their demands and sacrifices his life without knowing the end, but with the hope that his courage will end the regime and bring justice and goodness back to his community.
At the beginning of the American consciousness, this Puritan community installed the value of the good for society instead of the selfish demands of the individual. This story, like many from the Revolutionary and Civil War tales, confirms that the desire to do what is right, even when life, order, and peace is at stake, is at the center of our American character. The individual is the cornerstone of a just society and its only protection against tyranny.
As I watch the Arab world fight and die for the very democracy I live, I worry about the long contentment of the States and whether Jefferson is right:
"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. [ ] And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of
resistance? [ ] What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
I pray for the people of Syria as they make their Proctorian stand. Whether the Syrian uprising is motivated by pride, spite, or hope, it is no doubt an individual striving to be heard and recognized after years of silence and frustration from their government. It is the noblest stand a man can make for their fellow man.
Perhaps it was America’s revolutionary history that inspired the Arab Spring, and one day the Arab Spring will be needed to inspire us to renew our democracy.