How Iranian thugs are like Bull Connor

Perhaps the only profound thing said by Stokely Carmichael during the Black Power era was that power is the ability to define. That is what we are seeing in Iran by the second: thousands upon thousands of citizens refusing to allow a moment to be defined by the guys in power, who are known to play rough and bloody until you knuckle under, spitting out teeth and breathing red bubbles. This is not new. Freedom is always about the cost of being inside of the dialogue and having the latitude to offer an opinion or a perspective that just might be outside of the halls of functioning power.

As we watch Iranians beaten and shot by the men whose job it is to represent the naked force of the state, it is not hard to recall all of the terrible images of “the Southern way of life” that helped to fuel the civil-rights movement because those images brought our country closer to its ideals. Television pulled the mask off and ripped loose the layer of bucolic facial skin until we saw all of the intimidation, torture, and murder distinguishing the true tissue. The sheer unconstitutional nature of that “way of life” below the Mason-Dixon Line became clear in the execution of laws intended more for containment than any actual form of civilized democratic life. Segregation always meant either the quiet or the violent form of a race riot.