As we move into the fading days of 2007, every organization will be proclaiming their ____ of the year.
The Associated Press will have its Top Ten Stories of the year. ESPN will have its Top Ten Sports Highlights. There is even a site which has the Top Ten Astronomy Photos of the year.
Time Magazine used to make a big deal about its "Man of the Year." Political correctness overtook Time and they changed it to the "Person of the Year" although it is not clear to me why they couldn't name it "Man" or "Woman" of the Year depending upon the gender of the … person, but that's just me.
This year Time Magazine has chosen Vladimir Putin as its Crypto-Communist-Dictator of the Year.
The Time editors make the point that the "Person of the Year" is not a prize nor an endorsement. They state they chose Putin because; [H]e has performed an extraordinary feat of leadership in imposing stability on a nation that has rarely known it and brought Russia back to the table of world power.
The title of the section in which the editors explain their selection is: "Choosing Order Before Freedom"
"Stability" is the battle cry of despots and the siren song of lost liberty.
It may well be that Russians don't want freedom or liberty. Living under the rule of Tsars starting with Ivan the Terrible in 1547, only to see them replaced by the benignly named but similarly empowered "Party Secretaries" for the better part of the 20th century, Russians have breathed the air of freedom for a bare matter of months.
Vladimir Putin took control of a country which had descended into a medieval structure of competing mafia-style warlords in armored Mercedes Benz' who had seized control of the levers of political, cultural, and economic power.
In the ensuing eight years Putin (who has a law degree and a Ph.D. in economics) used many of the same techniques to consolidate power in the office of the President offering Russians the societal warmth of centralized "stability" in trade for the cold, harsh realities of individual freedom.
Inasmuch as I am blessed to live in the United States of America where freedom and stability are the regular order of our existence, it is too easy for me to reproach those who would trade one for the other.
But, in setting an example of the value of stability at the price of freedom in Russia, Vladimir Putin is drawing a blue-print for other dictators-in-waiting around the world to make the same case to their people.
Freedom, not stability has been the yardstick of civilization's evolution.
Who is my choice for "Person of the Year?"
General David Patraeus.