How to Lose a Country Gracefully

True confessions, I’m not great at keeping up with the news. I don’t really understand much about what’s going on in the Mid East, or how close some of these nations are to revolution. I snack on soundbites from NPR while I’m struggling to get out of bed, and then I switch to The Bert Show (or TBS as elaney calls it) when I get in my car. In general, I trend toward the past rather than the present. I realize this is a fatal flaw as a historian, but while I’m trying to work that out, I’m thankful when people put the present in context of the past so I can better understand it.

Maury sent me this excellent NYT article called “How to Lose a Country Gracefully.” The author, Bill Miller, cites Gorbachev and Moxie’s new BFF, F.W. de Klerk as examples.

Since I’ve noticed that there are not many readers who actually click on the links I post, I will leave some nuggets here on this page in case you don’t have the time/energy/interest in reading the whole article.

[de Klerk and Gorbachev] managed a feat that is almost unthinkable in most of today’s erupting autocracies: after succumbing to democracy, they contributed to its legitimacy by becoming candidates for high office — and losing, fair and square. De Klerk, the last white president of a South Africa that oppressed blacks for centuries, actually pressed the flesh and pleaded for votes in black townships, professing a kind of civic kinship I think he genuinely felt. De Klerk and Gorbachev were triumphant partners in their own defeats, and thus in their countries’ victories.

[I like the gospel-themed idea of victory in defeat. They accepted defeat for a bigger victory. They put aside their pride, their reputations, their personal “kingdoms” for the sake of others. A small and weak reflection of what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross.]

Both Gorbachev and de Klerk began as reformers — that is, politicians devoted to making a dreadful system less dreadful, not to actually abolishing it…but revolutions have a way of overrunning reformers

Core points:

Freedom is a slippery slope.

A little glasnost is a dangerous thing. (Moxie’s personal fav)

Some of your best allies are in your jails.

Armies are people, too.

One man’s dead nuisance is another’s martyr.

Winning is the easy part.
Congratulations, you ousted the tyrant, you won an election, your inaugural address stirred the hearts of your people. Now here’s your giant goodie bag of festering misery — Egypt! — where the army runs the private sector, the mullahs may or may not be spoiling to impose shariah law, the tourists have been scared off, poverty and unemployment are rife and any day the score-settling will begin.

Thanks Maury, and Bill, for helping me understand the present in light of the past. Isn’t that what each of us does with our own stories? As we think through our past, our presents keep presenting new stories and circumstances that reveal who we are and who we are becoming.


One response to “How to Lose a Country Gracefully

  1. Thanks for educating me! Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the news. I can barely keep up with the news much less my friend’s baby blogs. Hope to see you soon jLal! Diggin’ the new look.

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