History Repeating

June 17, 2009

In 1978, when I was a young newspaper reporter in Melbourne, Florida, I covered a protest march by a few dozen Iranian students. Carrying placards and shouting slogans, faces flush with anger, they looked as if they had wandered onto the wrong movie set.

I didn’t know much about the target of their rage: the Shah of Iran and his hated secret police, SAVAK. Passing motorists gave the group confused looks. Nobody was paying attention to the unrest in Iran, of which these Florida Institute of Technology students were a distant part. Nobody could have guessed that the rich and powerful Shah would be overthrown the next year, or two years after that, in 1981, Islamist revolutionaries would seize fifty-two American hostages, ensnaring the United States for decades.

I’ve pictured that small protest march more than once during the last few days, recalling the students’ zeal for ridding their country of an oppressive dictator. The Shah seemed destined to languish forever in absolute power. Nobody envisioned the fomenting revolution and inconceivable changes ahead.

History may be repeating itself as the people rise up again, when the world least expects it, and demand freedoms the last revolution didn’t deliver. This time, everyone’s watching.