November 4, 2022
Decrying Iran’s tyranny, and rooting for the women protesters, is facile. But two points:
One, Iran is seemingly a special case among the world’s dictatorships — a theocracy, rule in the name of religion. However, that’s just the regime’s cover story for what is in reality plain old autocracy, its guys (and they’re all male) ruling not to serve God but themselves; not by grace of God but guns.
Part of their pretend-piety is enforcing a stringent female dress code, putatively to protect against otherwise uncontrolled male libidos. (Western men aren’t unhinged by seeing gals’ hair, but never mind.)
Women are protesting after one was killed for a headscarf lapse. Note that the Koran merely speaks of dressing modestly, with all the extreme rules a later invention, to keep women down. Which goes way beyond clothing. Women are subject to suffocating restrictions in all aspects of life — even sometimes including who they marry.
Iran’s theocrats exploiting religion for self-aggrandizing power is hypocrisy enough. But the hypocrisy goes ballistic when women are brutalized with torture and rape to enforce a dress code supposedly to protect them. Yes, many are being raped by their captors. Rape in the name of protecting their sacralized virginity. Isn’t rape against the koran? Will anyone be punished — like those women are?
Some religious believers are sincere, even virtuous. But those many who exploit religion for self-serving ends never are. Religion is all too apt, as in Iran, to empower bad people to act badly. Religion and hypocrisy are blood brothers.
Which leads me to Point Two. America must guard against this. We are full of people who actually want us to be not a democracy but a theocracy. A majority would never accede; but the majority be damned (literally) in their eyes. Willing to use undemocratic means to get their way. That’s how they’ve already gotten a Supreme Court that’s smashing down our wall of separation between church and state.
Iran’s theocracy came in through violent revolution. I once thought The Handmaid’s Tale could never actually happen in America. But in a sequel, author Margaret Atwood explains how her fictional theocracy arose simply by a violent coup. Today I’m less sure it can’t happen here.