The politics of the Iran deal discussions interest me so much that I even follow the administration's Twitter feed on that, which has a Twitter ID that says exactly what it is about, unlike my Twitter ID.
It bothers me a great deal when the Obama administration and the opponents alike convey to the American people--and to the rest of the world--that Iran is like a cancerous blob out there and that the entire region and the world is in jeopardy if we don't act now. It bothers me because to the average person listening to all that, or reading about it, Iran all the more becomes a distant and abstract entity, instead of the nearly 80 million people living there. A population that is almost twenty times Oregon's but we have plenty who laugh with--and not at--the crazies like "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran."
Does it not matter anymore that a country's government is different from its people? Shouldn't we be respectful of the nearly 80 million people in that country, and those of Iranian descent who live in the US and in other countries? Imagine me bashing the billion Indians just because I disagree with Modi's politics. Or, lumping together the billion Chinese into one blob because I hate the Communist Party and its politics. It depresses me that we are completely dehumanizing the nearly 80 million people of Iran and making demons out of them.
That kind of an atrocious representation of Iran always makes me think of a friend. An old friend, who died a few years ago. Cancer got him :(
Shahab was from Iran, and was one of the many who were forced to exit the country after the theocratic revolution in 1979. His exit was a story of struggling his way through sympathetic Eastern European countries, then to Western Europe, and finally to the US.
We had quite a few lunches together, and occasional dinners too. I learnt a lot about Iran and some of the cultural aspects there. Through Shahab, I even came to know about a religion called "Mithraism," which apparently was a serious competitor to Christianity back in Rome. It was fascinating to find out how much Mithraism, Hinduism, and the Zorastrian faith have/had in common, and how Christianity itself has a lot of common ground with Mithraism.
Shahab's parents--his mother, in particular--were big fans of Indian movies, even from their years in Tehran. He said something along the lines of: "my mother could not understand a word uttered in the movies. But, she laughed when the heroine laughed and cried when the heroine cried, and enjoyed the songs." Of course, the older Hindi songs were unlike the contemporary ones--the older songs in Hindi often reflected the Persian cultural heritage that the Mughals brought with them. His parents were also rice eaters and Shahab joked that if there was no rice served at parties that his parents went to, well, after they returned home they would eat a little bit of rice :)
Shahab was more a creative arts person than the architect/planner that he was in his day job. I suspect that he enjoyed the arts infinitely more. I remember going to the exhibition that he had of his photographs, in the library at Beverly Hills. The guy was in his elements, and significantly different from his persona at work, and more like the person he was at the lunches and coffees we had. One of the sites still has links to some of his works, along with an email address to contact him. (That is from where I grabbed the photo.) I suppose you never cease to exist in the internet.
The next time you hear somebody bashing Iran, ask yourself whether "all options are on the table" appeals to you anymore and, if it does, then find out whether the 80 million there do not matter to you. Think about Shahab. Picture him in your mind.
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