Ideas from the Archives Archive
22 June 2009 3:50 AM
His description of Iran is fascinating given current events -- the whole piece is worth a read -- and particularly striking is an excerpt about the hostage-takers, or gerogan-girha.
The gerogan-girha live in the ruins of their dream. As they've grown gray-haired and plump, the fame and admiration they once enjoyed have faded like the graffiti at the Den of Spies. Those who despise the current regime now regret their role in bringing a small circle of wealthy, authoritarian clerics to power. And more than anything they blame the hostage crisis for a litany of problems and setbacks that have befallen their country in the past quarter of a century. Iran's loss of ties to the United States after the embassy seizure prompted Saddam Hussein to invade in 1980 (when the hostages were still being held). In the ensuing war Iran lost more than half a million young men. Iran's status as an outlaw nation has had a stifling effect on its chances for an economic turnaround.
Some of the gerogan-girha have gone into exile and taken up arms against the religious rulers; others have been harassed, denounced, beaten, or imprisoned for advocating democratic changes. In some cases they have been persecuted by their former colleagues. "None of us in the revolution believed Iran would ever have an autocratic regime again," Mohsen Mirdamadi, a leader of the gerogan-girha who is today a controversial reform politician, told a Knight Ridder correspondent earlier this year. "Yet here we are."
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My favorite part of the piece is as follows:
Tim Harper explored the rise of SWAT tactics in an October 2000 Atlantic article that showed how the Columbine high school massacre transformed our idea of local police departments, especially how officers ought to react during hostage situations.
Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed,--chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones... Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ's time--and long before that--God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools,--only Uncle Sam can do that.The excerpt is from "The American Forests," an 1897 essay by crusading naturalist John Muir. Although he wrote long after westward expansion fell and burned much of the country's woodlands, his advocacy helped spur President Theodore Roosevelt to launch a major conservation program, creating the U.S. Forest Service in 1905 and preserving millions of acres of American wilderness.
An ode to trees bring to mind two things for me: the Ents that Tolkien renders so beautifully in The Lord or the Rings, and the closest I've found to an earthly equivalent, the giant Sequoia and redwood forests of California. It is impossible to walk among those forests without feeling awe at proximity to creatures so magnificent in scale and ancient in age.
It is no wonder that the article augured the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 and the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 -- after laying out numerous specific complaints against the biggest corporations of the day, it concludes by offering as powerful an objection against the idea of monopoly power as has ever been written:
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IDEA FROM THE ARCHIVES/June 16, 2009 -- Any history of influential articles published by The Atlantic
must include "Broken Windows," a 1982 cover story by James Q. Wilson
and George Kelling about the relationship between police and
neighborhood safety. The theory it proposed is credited by many (though not
all) with reversing the lengthy crime epidemic that plagued
New York City and other urban centers. Former NYPD
Commissioner James Bratton called Mr. Wilson "my intellectual mentor."
A head of the Justice Department's research arm once said
that the piece "has had a greater impact than any other article on
On re-reading it, I
am struck by the fact that although the "broken windows" part of its argument is conventional wisdom these days, an equally
prominent part of the article is all but forgotten. In fact, the forgotten part includes what strikes today's reader as its most radical--some would say reactionary--idea.