By Josh Skinner
This past week subjected audiences of an increasingly tumultuous TV show known as “Our World”. President Trump’s pure joy while bobbing his head amongst a group of Saudi royalty, and the horrific terrorist attack that robbed 22 people of their lives at an Ariana Grande concert. Weeks like the one that just passed have a double effect of both reassuring and shattering the faith of those who watch the news. Weeks like this throw two extremes at humans and expect us to remain rational. This is why it is important to focus on things that don’t strictly serve the purpose of reaffirming our dispositions that “Trump is a buffoon”, or “Islam is a cancer”. This week, the elections in Iran can serve that purpose.
Donald Trump used his visit to Saudi Arabia to reaffirm the Gulf nation’s status as America’s Middle Eastern side piece. Bibi Netanyahu and the country he represents will always be bae. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Saudi Arabia has always been both a seller of oil to America, and a buyer of government bonds and American weapons. President Trump elected to reaffirm his status against Iran, framing them as the top threat to peace in the Middle East.
In his speech, Iran was framed as a global funder of terror, and the sole cause of instability within the region. He isn’t wrong on this front; Iran does bad things. Where this legitimate criticism’s trousers fall authoritatively around President Trump’s ankles is that Saudi Arabia is just as guilty as Iran. The scorched earth campaign of both states is morally reprehensible in both Syria and Yemen. The difference between these two governments is that one is currently trending in the right direction.
This is during the same week that gave us such a schizophrenic news cycle, there was something to celebrate that simply wasn’t given any attention because it failed to check off one of three boxes:
- It failed to confirm that President Trump is a fool;
- That President Trump is a Russian puppet;
- That Islam is Communism on devil juice.
Iran elected its moderate President for the second time. A man who believes in the concept of the man who was the architect behind, the Iran Nuclear Deal, Hassan Rouhani.
To be fair, this man is only moderate by Iranian terms, meaning that he wants to open up Iran to foreign capital. He does believe in greater civil liberties though, which is nice. This isn’t really a progressive stance, but he sees the path to an increasingly globalised Iran through being less of a dick on the world stage, ie. through halting the production of nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting of sanctions. He certainly does not hold particularly liberal views of women or the LGBT community. That being said his victory shows that the majority of Iranians, and women in particular believe that he will give them more individual freedoms. How many steps they are willing to take is still a mystery.
What the West can learn from this election is that increasingly, political inclination correlates stronger along lines of geography than it has in the past. This harkens back to the American presidential election in which Hillary Clinton dominated coastal areas (and the popular vote) while Trump took the heartland and interior of America.
The same can be said of the Iranian election, in which those who supported Rouhani’s opponent, Ebrahim Raisi, are all clustered around the same area, in the rural heartland of Iran. Meanwhile the urban elite and the majority of the country endorse Hassan Rouhani.
This is something that could be both worrisome or reassuring to casual observers. The reassurance could come in the form of simply saying “Wow, isn’t this nice that people are the same everywhere, regardless of whether or not I perceive their religion as Communism on devil juice.” This means that everywhere you go, there is an urban and rural divide that seems to be growing.
Increasingly, nations across the world seem to be divided, and living in echo chambers where it is not the merit of ideas that wins elections, but rather demographics that have the final word. If political discussion only occurs between politicians, we have a problem. If different communities do not interact with one another, then empathy for the other is as nonexistent as man rompers still being a thing by the time this article is released. Just as stressful is the reality that people may no longer understand how to have political discussion.
This isn’t to say that all ideas are created equal and that people should practice tolerating intolerance. But if these trends continue, ideas will only grow in petri dishes. When ideas are isolated and unchallenged, the fact that those with opposing views seem like monsters made in a lab should come as no surprise. So when a country like Iran takes tiny, but clearly mature, Gary-Coleman-like steps towards becoming a more moderate nation, we should be reminded that the world isn’t just terrorist attacks and buffoonery.