schussman.com logo

Revolution, on sale cheap

Speaking in Paris today, Condoleeza Rice talks about revolutions and freedom:

In her speech, Rice said the founders of both the French and U.S. republics were inspired by the same values—freedom, democracy and human dignity—and by each other. History has shown that revolutions striving for freedom can start in mundane ways but need outside help, she said.

“In my own experience, a black woman named Rosa Parks was just tired one day of being told to sit in the back of the bus,” Rice said. “So she refused to move, and she launched a revolution for freedom in the American South.”

Similar was the power of Lech Walesa and his labor strike in Poland, Afghans and Iraqis who recently voted after years of repression and ordinary men and women who helped bring down the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Can we please dispel the “Rosa Parks was just tired” story? Parks didn’t singlehandedly launch a revolution; she was a longtime participant in an ongoing and mature movement by the time the Montgomery bus boycott began. The idea that it was somehow a spontaneous outburst just isn’t accurate, and this misconception hinders our understanding of other movement projects. Invoking the “tired” storyline makes change seem easy and inexpensive, and really doesn’t do justice to something that we know to be extraordinarily difficult.