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Where’s Time Magazine’s Cojones?

Ruth Hopkins
1/3/12

Time magazine selected “The Protestor” as its 2011 Person of the Year. The seminal publication’s decision as to who or what is worthy of the title of Person of the Year is based upon what person or thing they feel most influenced the news and global culture over the past year. Time said protestors involved in The Tea Party Movement, The Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and other demonstrations across Europe and the U.S. “redefined people power” and changing the shape of global politics.

I’m hardly dazzled by their selection. As a native woman I’m turned off by anything that appears half-hearted or cowardly. By naming “The Protestor” as its Person of the Year, Time attempted to appease the masses by using a nonspecific catch-all descriptor. In reality such a short-sighted, anesthetized, blanket acknowledgement only serves to water down the potency of the historic, meaningful deeds of those it meant to honor. Time pulled this stunt before: most recently in 2006, when it named “You” its Person of the Year, meaning the millions of people who anonymously contribute user-generated web content to Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace (remember Myspace?), Facebook, and other similar websites, cause you know, we, i.e. “You” use the internet and occasionally buy magazines and stuff. What’s the point of selecting a Person of the Year if millions of people, all with different motives and levels of sincerity, are lumped together into one faceless heap? It’s like giving everyone in class an ‘A’ regardless of whether or not they turned in their homework or studied for the final. Hugo Chavez should

have been Time’s 2006 Person of the Year, but then again Mr. Chavez could have fit under the umbrella of “You” as defined by Time magazine that year. I once submitted a clip of my pet rabbit to You Tube, so she would have qualified for Time’s 2006 Person of the Year too.

This year, Time was headed in the right direction. Protestors played a significant role in 2011. Heck, protests were so widespread that the ‘Pepper-Spraying Police Officer’ could have been Time’s Person of the Year. The news was replete with incidents of police officers spraying old women, children, students and anyone else within squirting distance in places like New York, UC-Davis, and Seattle, among many others. I kid.

Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, would have been a good choice for Time’s Person of the Year. He was the catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and the Arab Spring. Conditions in the Arab world have been ripe for revolution for awhile, but it was when Mr. Bouazizi set himself on fire after a policewoman confiscated his unlicensed vegetable cart, spat on him, and insulted his dead father, that his countrymen decided they could take no more. Mohammed had gone to the local authorities to object to his mistreatment, but they refused to see him. When he died in the hospital several weeks later, the Tunisian people took to the streets. As a result, then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali stepped down after 23 years in power.

Tawakkul Karman, a journalist, peacefully fought tyranny and became the mother of the Yemen revolution. She was a joint winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, yet she didn’t qualify for Time’s Person of the Year.

Camila Vallejo, an undergraduate student and a member of the Chilean Communist Youth, became the voice of a social movement and a generation when she led protests to demand better access to a quality education. Camila has inspired countless young people across the globe to become politically involved. Surely Miss Vallejo’s contributions in 2011 are noteworthy.

Indian Country presented its own heroes in 2011. Debra White Plume, a Lakota grandmother, has become a prominent figure in the Environmental movement. She protests uranium mining on Tribal lands, and was arrested at the White House during protests against the Keystone XL pipeline this year. 102 years after his death, Geronimo made international headlines after it was revealed that his name was used as a code for Osama bin Laden in the Navy Seal operation to dispose of the terrorist. There was a public outcry throughout Indian country and the world, yet President Obama refused to issue an apology for the slight. If Time magazine intended to honor the spirit of defiance of protestors, they could have done no better than naming Geronimo their 2011 Person of the Year.

Deserving people aren’t always honored. Maybe Time’s Person of the Year is like the Oscars. Alfred Hitchcock never received one.

So who would I have selected, you ask? My choice for 2011 Person of the Year pioneered the personal computer revolution, thereby changing modern society, and invented technological communication devices that powered free speech in 2011:

“Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011)

Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton/Mdewakanton/Hunkpapa) is a writer, speaker,former science professor and tribal attorney. She is a columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network and LastRealIndians.com. Ruth may be reached via Twitter, Facebook, or by email at cankudutawin@hotmail.com

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ppmickey's picture
What a terrific article. i couldn't agree more with your selection of Steve Jobs. Well done Ruth Hopkins.
ppmickey
rezican88's picture
This is an excellent piece, Ruth. You really hit the nail on the head, here. Fantastic work.
rezican88