By: Chris Zimmer – Columnist, Sophomore
Tunisia kicked off the Arab Spring revolutions in December 2010 when disgruntled citizens were tired of their corrupt government.
This small nation that borders a volatile neighbor, Libya, successfully overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali out of his 23-year presidency and dissolved the Constitutionalist Democratic Rally, the political party that achieved independence from France in 1956.
The CDR rigged elections and brought socialist and secular ideologies to the Arabic people of North Africa. Tunisian citizens had to put up with police brutality by way of torture and unwarranted imprisonment, as well as a president who had a “side job” of embezzling public funds, even drug trafficking.
The revolution moved from a civil resistance to violent mass demonstrations after a 26-year-old street vendor set himself on fire in protest to the regime.
It was less than one month later on Jan. 14, 2011, that Ben Ali stepped down, leaving the seat of power to human rights activist Moncef Marzouki, who served as interim president.
Last Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise trip to Tunisia to praise its progress in creating a democratic society as a new constitution is gradually being implemented.
However, I found Kerry’s words to be hypocritical effectively hurting the already horrible reputation of U.S. relations with the Middle East.
“The fact is that the road to a full democracy is long and difficult, and it is a road that in many ways never really ends, as we see even in old democracies like ours: we’re always working and we’re always working to perfect it,” Kerry said.
A true democracy allows all eligible citizens to participate in society under a chain of equality. This means living in a society where culture allows us to practice political self-determination. But when we think about it, does that actually describe what we have?
While we might be the world’s super power, we still have corrupt citizens in office who force us to pick a side. We live in a political state that is deeply divided ideologically and one that is heavily influenced by dollar signs.
Hardcore conservative and liberal commentary on-air from people such as Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews has become a detriment to an individual’s thought process on voting for the candidate they actually want and has made the apathetic ones a bunch of blind sheep.
It’s a broken record hearing our congressmen and Presidents criticize Middle East regimes, which I find to be the most hypocritical.
I only think the U.S. has given $400 million worth of foreign assistance to the new Tunisian democracy because of the collateral built up from the Iraq War and “War on Terror.”
Militant groups with radical ideologies and violent agendas are still a threat to establishing peace in the Middle East and across North Africa. Tunisia was the lone survivor that rose from the ashes of the Arab Spring revolutions.
Is America’s support genuine? I am by no means saying Tunisia doesn’t deserve our help protecting its freedom and country.
Before we echo Kerry’s praise of the courage and success of Tunisia, we should re-evaluate our own democracy.