Everybody seems to be doing a year-end Top Ten. Okay, I'll chime in.
These are persons or events that most captured my attention and imagination during 2011.
1. Anna Hazare. This 21-century Gandhi-esque man led a nonviolent protest against government corruption in the autumn that engaged millions of Indians. His fast and savvy actions led to a major breakthrough on anti-corruption laws in the world's largest democracy. Best low-profile story of the year.
2. Tahrir Square. Nothing captured my imagination like the freedom movement in Egypt this past spring and summer. The drama and dynamics of this peaceful movement brought about the downfall of US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak and brought hope for an authentic democracy.
3. Libyan liberation. It started nonviolent, but turned bloody quickly and ultimately relied on limited air support from NATO allies. The initial impact is that the dictator Gaddafi is gone and there is hope for an emerging democracy in Libya. Most importantly, Libya's future is in the people's hands. I think President Obama's handling of this was stellar.
4. Greece in protest. Partly because Becky and I waded through the middle of one day of the protests in Athens (our eyes burning from tear gas haze), and partly because what happens in Greece impacts much of the rest of the Eurozone. All of Greece is in angst amid austerity measures and a terrible economy. The heart of the birthplace of democracy is aching.
5. Occupy Wall Street. At the beginning of the year, no one could have imagined it: a group of mostly young people decided that since Wall Street influence occupied our government leaders they would occupy Wall Street for the sake of the 99% of Americans. Their extended and ameobic protest would spark a world-wide movement. I participated in the initial Occupy Indianapolis day and spent time with Occupy London protesters in October.
6. Gabby Giffords. I was on a fundraising bicycle ride in Vietnam when Gabby Giffords and her entourage was attacked with deadly violence--a violence derived directly from politician- and news media-fomented venom. Condemnation was swift and widespread. For a while, at least, the tone of public discourse changed. I think this episode marks the beginning of the end of the Tea Party's ascendance and credibility.
7. Inept Congress. House Speaker John Boehner and the conservative bloc of the House of Representatives have demonstrated and symbolized all that is broken in American political process at the moment. But they aren't alone. Time for a radical change in Congressional process.
8. Last Shuttle flight. American space flight has captured and fueled my imagination since I was a young child. The last shuttle flight in late summer signaled the end of an era for America and for me. What's next?
9. Penn State sex scandal. This tragic ordeal reveals so many layers of cover-up, complicity and unreported sexual abuse that are more usual than we want to believe across the nation. May healing come to the boys (now young men) who were abused. May justice and, after that, mercy come to all who perpetrated or failed act to end these abuses.
10. Out of Iraq. Over 4,000 American lives, over 100,000 Iraqi lives and over a trillion American taxpayer dollars late. President Obama kept an important promise by getting US troops out of Iraq. But the fact that none of the politicians who led America into this fiasco have been held accountable is a travesty. That, too, is a legacy of President Obama. But many of us shall not forget who insisted on this greatest and most costly foreign policy blunder in US history.