Sorry it has taken me a while to get back to this topic. I've been pretty insane, trying to help Iraqis escape the country. So far, very little luck. Things there are, unimaginably, getting even worse. More on the situation there soon.
Meantime, back to Burma and the earlier notes. I guess I didn't make it clear in my last posting that I had no personal lament. The very small group (only a few people altogether) of Burmese who complained about the Ithaca city resolution apparently simply misunderstood the Common Council's intention -- an easy thing to misunderstand, given the vast differences between the English and Burmese languages and the vast cultural differences -- and thought the city leaders were proclaiming that Burma was already democratic. In hindsight, maybe choosing the name "Burmese Democracy Day" wasn't such a great idea; but that is what the Burmese community chose, and so it stands.
What was misunderstood by our 8888 friends was that we were proclaiming solidarity with the Burmese people in their continuing struggle for Democracy that will surely be theirs SOMEday; we all hope it is sooner than later.
It is time for the United States and the United Nations to demand action on Burma. Stop paying lip service!!! Stop trying to pacify us!!! ASEAN, the EU, and the UN must all join with the USA to demand regime change in Burma. Not via machine guns and tanks and bombs, but by political and economic pressure. The military regime must step down and hand over the reins of the government to the democratically elected majority party, the National League for Democracy, and its leader, the rightful president, Aung San Suu Kyi. And it must happen now.
They must start by releasing Aung San Suu Kyi and allowing the rightful parliament to convene. Then the hardest work begins: forging a democracy from the disparate groups -- the many tribes and political parties -- that make up Burma, and building a lasting peace, with forgiveness and reconciliation and forward planning.
I remind my Burmese friends that democracy is messy, very messy. It means compromise, and occasionally conceding a point that means a lot to you. It means listening to opposing points of view, respecting them, and trying to negotiate something that both sides can live with. It means acceding to what may be an antithetical majority view. It means swallowing pride and anger, and working with those you might disagree with. It is, as I say, very messy, and painful, and sometimes even tedious.
Reconciliation and peace-building are equally difficult and require prodigious amounts of patience, forgiveness, and optimism.
There is a lot of work ahead, even once Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners are freed. Are the Burmese ready for the tasks?
I sincerely hope so. The world could use some happy news. And the Burmese need to try democracy on for size. They are very ready.