TIME for a real 'Person of the Year' this year?

Doubtless, Time Magazine will name an inoffensive non-entity as its Person of the Year once more. But maybe it's time for Time to rethink

Maria Gorrostieta is the latest high-profile victim of Mexico's drug violence
Dr. James Boys
On 5 December 2012 11:53

It’s December; there is snow on the ground, my birthday is imminent, Christmas is approaching and so, naturally, thoughts turn to yearly summations, of those who have passed from this world, and of contributions made to society and the world in general.

This means heaps of easy television, as networks will real out a series of C-List celebrities to prattle on about events and people that they really have no clue about as stock footage is run and re-run and laughs are generated at the expense of others.

One of the more venerable outlets for such reflection has been Time Magazine, which produces its annual Person of the Year (formerly, of course, Man of the Year). Since 1927 the editors have sought to identify an individual that has “for better or for worse, ...done the most to influence the events of the year.”

This has led to some interesting, if not outright bizarre choices in the past, one or two of which the editors would no doubt like to forget, or rescind if possible. These include the selection of Adolf Hitler in 1938, Joseph Stalin in both 1939 and 1942 (one of only 12 people to be acknowledged twice), and the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.

The award has been, perhaps unsurprisingly, particularly pro-American and especially reverential in regard to the Presidency, with every American president since 1927 having been celebrated in this fashion except for Coolidge, Hoover, and Ford.

The Person of the Year award, however, has become less and less contentious and more and more unimaginative. At times it has appeared that the editors have run out of ideas, having named YOU (i.e., the reader) as its Person of the Year in 2006 for promoting the Information Age!

As the editorial committee meets to decide upon its Person of the Year for 2012 it can safely be assumed that certain choices will loom large as obvious candidates. Given its predilection for the presidency, Barack Obama will doubtless make the shortlist following his re-election (Mitt Romney would have been guaranteed the award had he won). It has been suggested that Sandra Fluke may be in the running following her advocacy for Women’s access to contraception and the ensuing firestorm. When placed in a historical context, this appears problematic. Other nominees include Hillary and Bill Clinton, as well as Mohamed Morsi and Bashar Assad. 

But none of these would be particularly imaginative or pertinent. Instead, Time should look further afield and restore some dignity to the title and seek to celebrate a real hero.

Such a person could well be Maria Santos Gorrostieta.

This may well be a name that escapes many readers, but it should not be. It is a name that should have been mentioned far and wide, and the fact that hers is not a household name is a sad indictment of the media.

Maria Santos Gorrostieta was a doctor, a wife and a mother to three children. From 2008 to 2011 she was mayor of the small town of Tiquicheo in the Michoacan region of Mexico. In this position she sought to face down the narcotics traffickers and drug lords that are ravishing the region and the nation as part of the national crack down initiated by President Felipe Calderon in 2006.

Her efforts resulted in an October 2009 assassination attempt that left her bullet ridden and widowed. Just three months later gunmen struck again. Gorrostieta made a public display of her injuries to demonstrate her tenacity and determination to continue her struggle with the criminal element.

Sadly, she was abducted on November 12th and her tortured, mutilated body was discovered five days later by the side of a road.

The tragedy of the story is not only its brutality and senseless violence; it is in the fact that it is not known on a wider scale. The tale of Maria Santos Gorrostieta should be told from town to town, from city to city, and from nation to nation in an attempt to ensure that her struggle was not in vain and in an effort to bring justice to her memory and peace to her nation.

Doubtless, Time Magazine will fail to recognise her struggle and will, instead, name an inoffensive non-entity as its Person of the Year once more. In doing so, it threatens its own continued relevancy and dishonours the memory of Maria Santos Gorrostieta and countless other nameless, faceless individuals who continue to strive against powerful forces, often at the risk of grave personal danger. They do so not for glory or recognition, but for the only valid reason: because it is right.

Dr. James D. Boys is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. He is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King's College London, Associate Professor of International Political Studies at Richmond University in London and a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @jamesdboys

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