A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
Time magazine recently named Vladimir Putin its Person of the Year for 2007. The self-described "inventor of the Internet" was their choice as Runner-Up.
A former KGB apparatchik who "made his bones" in the heyday of the Cold War, Putin is personally responsible for the torture and murder of countless innocents. Propped up and maintained by the rocketing price of Russian oil, he is sadly and inexorably leading his country back to its autocratic past.
Time could have selected Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was tragically assassinated last week.
And so we see 2007 end on a tragic note. Pakistan and the world have lost a stunningly courageous and charismatic leader, and what happens in the wake of her death will MATTER here at home. Bhutto was remarkable on so many levels. That a woman could emerge as a prominent and respected leader of a Muslim country is in itself remarkable. That this woman used her position to uphold the ideals of democracy, and preach the need for moderate Islam to establish and cultivate ties with the West, is the stuff that changes the tide of world geo-political events. And that of course is why the terrorists killed her.
She claimed last summer that, "I did not choose this life - it chose me". In addition to Prime Minister, Bhutto was a wife and mother who "counted the cost" as she led. For most of us, counting the cost is measured in small ways. For Benazir Bhutto, it meant knowingly living and working with a bounty on her head.
If you seek a definition of courage and leadership in these troubled times, you need look no farther than her life. For months she knew she was a marked and hunted woman, yet she continued to face the guns of the cowards who could not match her indomitable will or quiet dignity.
Her political career was not the naive choice of someone who thought she could be kept safe. It was the moral decision of a woman who understood that the call of duty was something greater than her personal desires. To a world needing leaders of stature and steel, her loss is immeasurable.
So today - instead of her noble profile and gentle beauty on that cover of Time, we see Putin's dour and sardonic visage squinting down at us; the very picture of a modern-day Dorian Gray.
What a heroic figure she was.
What a pathetic choice Time made.