The genesis and success of the Jasmine revolution in Tunisia can be found in an ancient and dreadful form of protest—self immolation, and in the relatively secure means of modern protest—Facebook. These very different means of expression led to the overthrow of a repressive government in a region of despots, and ignited a spark of freedom that is, to the horror of strong-armed leaders in the Arab world, spreading from country to country.
Freedom’s ferment in the Arab world bring to mind the previous burst of fervor, that was marked and fanned by what, in my mind, was one of the great speeches of recent times—the Second Inaugural address of President George W. Bush. The speech was lauded by many as an inspiration for voices of freedom, but also criticized by those who saw it as naïve and unhelpful. The scoffers look increasingly wrong-headed.
Although the protesters in middle eastern cities are not quoting the words of an American president as they stand against oppression and corruption in their capitals, they nonetheless are evidence that President Bush expressed an enduring truth of freedom’s ferment. Here are four paragraphs from the remarkable speech, which harmonize nicely with the unrest in the Arab world this month.
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world….
America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave….
We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America’s belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty….
We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner “Freedom Now”—they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.