Twittering for freedom #iranelection

Editor’s note: This isn’t related to University of Alabama athletics, so if you aren’t interested in political commentary or international relations, then skip this post.

Twitter has played a role in the unrest following Iran’s presidential election. How big a role is up for debate. Business Week offers an opinion that the role is smaller than most would think.

That might be true. But you can’t doubt the ability of Twitter to serve as a makeshift news service. The technological elite in Iran can use Twitter and other Internet tools to make sure their message is told around the globe.

This in turn pays major dividends in global attention.

When you have tens of thousands of twits per hour on the Iranian election, it shows people are paying attention. Even Alyssa Milano is twittering or (twitting or whatever the term is) about it.

Technology has always played a major role in political change. I remember sitting in a political philosophy class about 10 years ago, and the professor was reciting Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. She made a point of talking about how the printing press made the Reformation possible, and the Reformation changed political theory with its claims that man did not need a priest to be intercessor between himself and God.

The priesthood of the believer (something important to Southern Baptists and based on I Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…” and I Peter 2:5 “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”) was a big step in the evolution of political freedoms and led to the American experiment.

That is another lesson, religion cannot be ignored when talking politics. When Barack Obama spoke to the Muslim world in his Cairo speech, he failed to fully examine or appreciate the central role of religion in the lives of most Muslims and most Americans. (This was something Camille Paglia examined in a piece at Salon.com.)

Faith animates a large portion of the American electorate; you can’t understand the country without understanding that. It is much the same way in Iran. The people are religious, and even those fighting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, aren’t fighting against the Islamic Republic. According to the Independent, “Yet this is not a revolution to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Both sets of demonstrators were shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ – ‘God is Great’ – at Vanak Square last night.”

Whatever the people of Iran want in terms of greater freedoms are in their interest and the interest of the United States. Free peoples are better able to control their leaders. And leaders are the problem for states like Iran and Venezuela. Inflation and unemployment are up in Iran, according to Qatar’s English daily, The Peninsula. All these economic problems despite Iran’s status as one of the largest oil producers; the country has struggled to pump oil since the 1979 revolution. According to one study, “Iran produced 6 million bbl/d of crude oil in 1974, but has been unable to produce at that level since the 1979 revolution due to a combination of war, limited investment, sanctions, and a high rate of natural decline in Iran’s mature oil fields.” According to that report, oil production today is just over one-half of the pre-revolution level.

Would the Iranian public prefer oil revenues in the Islamic Republic be spent on improving oil capacity thereby creating jobs and more wealth, or expended on the useless and dangerous acquisition of nuclear weapons?

This is one area where the average Iranian with more control over the nation’s political process could hold the failed government accountable.

And that would only serve to improve Iran’s economy, make the country stronger and also make the world safer. And all this hangs on the will of university students and other average Iranians. Sometimes they feel isolated and alone in their fight.

According to CNN, “We are fighting with our lives and the world is just watching,” said Ali, a Tehran University student who asked that his full name not be used. “They see how the government is trying to silence us, how they are beating us — but they don’t come to our help. It’s OK. We will succeed, even if we have to fight alone.”

These brave people aren’t fighting alone. They are the descendants of the spirit that motivated Washington and Jefferson. They certainly are in the thoughts and prayers of millions worldwide. And that counts for something.

Speaking of Washington, the first president in his Thanksgiving Proclamation included this prayer to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, “To protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”

A noble prayer, and something I also pray for the people of Iran: “Bless them with good government, peace, and concord.”