I had myself a tranquil little Christmas this weekend with two civilized family gatherings (i.e., no one Tarzan-swung a chandelier through a bay window), no traditional child tantrums around the tree and everyone generally satisfied with the weekend's offerings and observations with no ER visits or speed dials to The Nanny. Not watching the television news or picking up the Times may have helped foster that apparently foolish sense of seasonal serenity. While I made merry, the world went a little madder.
I completely missed the papal tackle at midnight Mass at the Vatican, and this morning I've been watching with fear and trembling YouTube snippets of the people on the streets now throughout Iran, as a previously large but perhaps sociologically narrow opposition movement has exploded across culture, class and age distinctions in Iran. Some of the most vociferous opposition rallies are now being held in "conservative" provinces and resistance to Ayatollah Khamenei and the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regime is escalating at a breathtaking pace. The decision to bring the hammer down during the annual Shi'ite observation of Ashoura and the brutal murder of a nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi—and later theft of the nephew's corpse—appears to have ignited widespread discontent which has been smoldering since the fraudulent re-election of Ahmadinejad in June. Where this will lead is hard to tell, but commentators are already comparing the unrest to the original Palestinian intifada and there is a striking resemblance to the weeks of street disturbances which finally led to the capitulation of the Shah in 1979. Perhaps Ahmadinejad's upcoming state visit to Tajikistan will provide a welcome—on all sides—opportunity for him to get out of Dodge. Or Iranian hardliners could try tightening their grip even harder. They might want to discuss that strategy with the current Shah, His Imperial Majesty Reza Shah II. They can reach him at his home in exile in the United States.
Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic perhaps offers the best track on events in Iran while the U.S. internet and cable news outlets appear transfixed by the admittedly incredible breakdown of whatever passes for our high-tech airport security. It works so well a Nigerian terrorist managed to get on a Detroit-bound flight without baggage, after purchasing tickets with cash, and apparently with high explosives clumsily concealed on his body. Perhaps it is time to seriously consider whether Israeli style security procedures have become necessary for international, perhaps even domestic travel, into and throughout the United States. Yes, folks that means no carry-ons and thorough pat-downs before boarding, a small price to pay for, well, the rest of your life.
Capping my depressing news read today was the horrible images and reports emerging from the mayhem in Pakistan as a car bomb detonated among a group of Shi'ite worshippers in Karachi.