Commentary: Putting our political squabbles into perspective

The Charlotte ObserverOctober 27, 2011 

If you were born in the United States in 1969, you've lived under eight presidents - Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama.

Maybe you like a couple of those guys, maybe you can't stand a couple of others. Maybe you voted for one or two and wish you hadn't. It's a mix.

But if you had been born in Libya in 1969, you would've lived your entire life, until last week, under one ruler - Moammar Gadhafi.

Let the cold water of perspective splash your face for a while.

No president in our country stays in charge for more than eight years. Gadhafi kept the poor Libyan people down in a ditch for 42 years. No wonder they were so angry when they clawed their way out.

Gadhafi's death on Thursday was not exactly noble. Bombs hit his convoy as he tried to escape the revolution that has been brewing in Libya since February. Anti-Gadhafi fighters found him hiding in a drainage pipe. He was beaten bloody. He begged for his life. Somewhere in there, he was shot. He ended up displayed in a meat locker.

It's unsettling to celebrate another human being's death, but if karma counts, Gadhafi earned what he got. Over more than four decades, he unplugged every other source of Libyan power. There was no functioning government. There were no real systems. There was only Gadhafi.

Compare and contrast.

We've had an especially feisty round of protests lately about what America has become. This is a good thing. As Americans, with the right to free speech tucked in our pockets, we ought to protest more than we do. There are a lot of streets that need to be occupied besides Wall Street.

(And by the way, if you're going to be here for the Democratic National Convention, you might as well get used to protesters. They'll be as common as crape myrtles that week.)

The only thing I worry about, as we the people let loose our voices, is context.

It's easy to slide into that arrogant thought that our true problems are the worst problems, our flawed leaders are the worst leaders, because they are ours. That's the thinking that led Hank Williams Jr. to go on Fox News and start flinging Hitler around in the same sentence as President Barack Obama. Our guy is struggling to get the economy going; their guy killed 6 million people. Not the same.

So I hope that, as we continue to push and poke at what's wrong with our country, we realize that just by being born here, we hit one of life's lotteries. Sometimes we forget.

Thanks to Gadhafi, maybe we'll remember for a little while.

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service