The aftermath of Iran's election last week was startling. From the eyebrow-raising lopsided vote tally, to the surge of protesters into the streets, to the pivotal role of tools like mobile phones, Twitter, and YouTube in getting the story out, it's hard to say what's been the most remarkable.
Those of us outside of Iran who would like to see a freer, more open regime in Tehran have found our urge to do something in support of the protesters to be a powerful one. And for a lot of Twitizens who want to do something but have no idea just what would help, that something has been to make their avatars green. (You may recall the Orange Revolution in Ukraine back in 2004, when many sympathetic bloggers turned their sites orange.) For others, more concrete action has been the order of the day: for example, setting up proxy servers to help Iranians tell their stories free of censorship and intimidation, or more shadowy activity like denial-of-service attacks.
Is it doing any good? Do our efforts, symbolic or concrete, have any impact? We don't really know. Critics will point out that, for the most part, people are jumping on a bandwagon. Very few of us have any real grasp of Iran's political or social complexities; we have no idea who the leading opposition candidate is or what kind of record he has (and most of us would recoil if we found out). All true.
What we do have, though, is a shared belief in human dignity, and a shared recognition that this is a chance for that cause to take a big step forward. Green avatars are, in a sense, a way of signaling as much to each other: "Yeah, I care about this, too." Perhaps we do this to show solidarity as much with each other as with the people of Iran.