Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.

 

Coming Home

Having just returned from two weeks in a country that is tentatively emerging from 50 years of secret government, it was unsettling to arrive home to a nation that sometimes seems headed in the other direction. Two cases in point: (1) by the predictably partisan 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court’s majority dismissed a challenge to a Bush-era law that gives the federal government broad powers of secret surveillance over its own citizens; and (2) it took Rand Paul, of all people, to get the administration to address the limits of targeting Americans for assassination on U.S. soil. No, the situations in Burma and the United States are not comparable, and people everywhere hunger for this country’s tradition of open dissent. But that tradition depends on transparency in government, and Paul, for all his grandstanding, underscored the fact that political leaders must constantly to be reminded of that. I was startled in Burma to hear the word “transparency” on many lips. It speaks of people’s new faith that one of the world’s most “Orwellian” governments is changing. In a country – once home to the author of Animal Farm and 1984 – where dissent was ruthlessly crushed and surveillance an ubiquitous fact of life, there remains the fear that the generals will renege on their promises. But it is tempered by the hope that each day of openness will make that more difficult to do. The Burmese take nothing for granted. Their history says they are wise not to.

Traveling Man

Burma Road