As the Civil War in Syria rages on and is becoming more entrenched, Jordan just held an election – with scattered protests – in which the King of Jordan put alot of effort into making sure that nothing really changed. I don’t understand that and I suspect it is because my point of view is different than that of a middle east monarch. King Abdullah, afterall, grew up in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. His – God-given, I suppose – right to be monarch is even in the country’s name. I grew up in a democracy and my main political influence was a father who was both a Democrat and, more importantly, a democrat.
When I first read about the protests in Syria, in March of 2011, I was sure that Bashar al-Assad would agree to work at setting up a democracy. The autocratic rulers of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt had already fallen and it seemed to me that the writing was on the wall. Now, almost two years later, in his craving to hold on to power, Dictator Bashar al-Assad has killed, atleast, 60,000 people – more than the 50,000-plus U.S. combat deaths in Vietnam – and driven more than 750,000 of his own people into exile. If I were King Abdullah of Jordan, I would be worried that the same thing could happen to me. I would be jumping through hoops trying to get a real Democracy established so that Jordan doesn’t turn into Syria – or Egypt or Libya – even though the situation is not exactly the same.
Maybe the ruler of Jordan feels safe because, in Syria, the ruling class of Alawites is in the minority. Maybe he thinks that that is the only reason a popular uprising in the streets has morphed into a Civil War. From my point of view – with almost no knowledge of particulars – Jordan might be next. I suspect that I see only all the similarities between Syria and Jordan and King Abdullah sees only the differences. But, more importantly, democracy and change are in my blood and, I suspect, not in Abdullah’s.
I hold George Washington to be a National Hero because he gave up power and, in the United States, the tradition has continued with not only our elected leaders giving up their power to the next elected leader, but over the years, the ruling class of land-owning, white, men, has given up its exclusive power. In Jordan, the rulers are part of the majority population and they are holding on to their power as tight as they can (but there is an large immigrant population that does not seem to be very happy with this). In Jordan, elections are held but they don’t seem to change anything – although I did read that this year, one big change is that the ballots are actually printed – and I am of the point of view that that this refuse to change will boil over into a bigger problem.