If you could go back in time to 1955, the year that Rosa Parks became a symbol for the Civil Rights movement by refusing to give up her seat in the front of a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white person, and present the civil rights protesters of Montgomery as Time’s Person of the Year, wouldn’t you? Not Rosa Parks, mind you, but the groups that backed her, and that she was part of: the Women's Political Council, the NAACP, and the African-American churches where Martin Luther King was a minister. That protest, while not the first or the last in a long struggle for civil rights in the United States, galvanized not only the city of Montgomery, but an entire nation. That year Time put forth Harlow Curtice, an auto executive. Obviously the auto has undeniably shaped American but he was hardly an inspiring choice. In a year when American auto companies went bust, and Americans inaugurated an African-American president it’s interesting to look back at 1955.
This year, one of Time's nominees for person of the year is the Iranian Protester. With more than half a million votes, s/he is a crowd pleaser. I think this is an inspired choice for Time. Those of us who have friends and family in Iran know how much courage it takes to go out on to the streets of Iran to protest the government, and we also know how many different types of people marched against the election results and how much danger they faced. The actions of the protesters changed the way the entire world views Iran and how Iranians view each other.
Change and reform is not always so exciting and sexy. For both the protesters in Iran and Barack Obama, who is the second most popular choice for person of the year, the inspiring moments are waning and the hard work is beginning.
Thanks to Mana for inspiring this line of thought in a late night Skype chat.
Cross-posted at United4Iran.org.