Today I heard a song I haven’t heard in many years: Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin.” It certainly matched the day Libyan rebels, looking more like schoolteachers and skateboarders than soldiers, marked their victory with a ride in Moammar Qaddafi’s golf cart.
Mentally, I add Qaddafi’s fall to my “things I never thought I would see in my lifetime” list. It’s getting to be long – something to counteract my natural inclination to pessimism about the human condition.
The list began in 1989 when the Berlin Wall toppled – undermined not by grenades or bombs, but by Berliners and tourists chipping away souvenirs of the most visible symbol of what used to be called the Iron Curtain. The crumbling wall was prelude to the Soviet Union’s crumbling – undreamed of during the Cold War.
Now a tide of liberation movements is making its way across the Middle East. Although Iran’s Green Revolution didn’t carry the day in 2009, like Lexington in 1776, it was a “shot heard round the world.” First Tunisia, then Egypt, then Yemen. Now, citizen soldiers capturing the symbolic heart of Qaddafi’s autocracy.
Certainly, we are at change’s beginning – its eventual end lies as far in the future as today’s standard of western democracy lies from that first shot fired in Lexington. But the world’s ossified royalty and strongmen should heed Dylan’s words:
For he that gets hurt / Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside / And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows / And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.