Back during the first US-Iraq war I got involved with a local peace group in my hometown in California. The members were mostly leftover activists from the Viet Nam era who still hung in there with what little business they got from environmentalist causes. A lot of innocent people were about to be bombed, and we figured the best way to stop it was to write a country-by-country Middle East information pamphlet informing our local yuppies that King Tut no longer ruled Egypt.
We included Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc with a couple of paragraphs describing their geography, system of government and main imports and exports. I did my research, and when it came to Israel I dutifully jot down that one of that country’s main exports was armaments. This reality bothered my fellow pamphlet editor Sarah, a beautiful, athletic, Israel admirer in her mid-twenties (To protect the innocent, I have changed her name as well as appearance, age, and state of health). Being a peaceful soul, she preferred the pamphlet to emphasize Israel’s several billion dollar olive exports. A few philosophical back and forths over the nature of reality, our editorial fracas ended up being presented to the full membership for a debate and a vote.
Sarah wasn’t a good speaker. Her thoughts were disorganized, her delivery watery, and her facts plain wrong. Her forte was taking down minutes, making copies of posters, answering phone calls, balancing the checkbook, and holding up banners in the rain weekend after weekend decrying the extinction of the Fluffy-backed Tit Babbler . I, on the other hand had stayed dry until a worthy cause had showed up, and to the admiration and applause of everyone at the meeting, presented my case in a clear, linear and well-documented format. So as Sarah and I left the room for the secret vote count, I began thinking of ways to be nice to her so she wouldn’t feel so bad after her defeat.
The vote count was 22-1…in favor of Sarah.
Lesson number one in Democracy: No group is going to risk alienating a useful and dedicated gofer in favor of the new one-issue hot shot.
Application of lesson number one in an Iranian Democracy:
If you want to support for your political cause, give your support and service to causes perhaps less important to you. These seemingly trivial causes are important to some people, and you may need these folks when the time comes.
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