Iran is on Fire: How to Keep Its People in Our Minds and Perhaps, Our Hearts


(The street uprisings are happening all over Iran, not just in the streets of Tehran. This was the scene in Moussavi’s home province, in Ardabil, today. Thanks to HuffPo.)

I’ve been reading and watching about what’s been happening in Iran: on Daily Kos, Juan Cole, Robert Fisk, Andrew Sullivan, Huffington Post and on MSNBC. The mainstream media has remained largely silent, I believe, not just because they don’t have foreign correspondents, per se; but probably because Obama told them to back up until further notice from on high. (I don’t Tweet; I leave it up to others to parse Farsi into English and let us know what is happening on the ground.) It’s obvious the mullahs, with their Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, thoroughly miscalculated big time that they could steal an election with 85% of the voting populace checking off for alternate candidates. And it’s no turning back now, as I write this, even though Khamanei met with Moussavi late this p.m. They’re stuck with Ahmadinejad now.

I’ve also heard and read the worst: that even veiled women are being beaten savagely as well as men; that tanks are being called in to suppress the uprising (that’s exactly what it is); that Mir Hossein Moussavi and the other opposition candidates are under house arrest; that the only way Iranians can communicate even to the outside is by Tweeting and You Tube; that even the peaceful demonstration being called for tomorrow morning (June 15) may descend into a bloodbath. It may be anyone’s guess what will eventually transpire. The mullahs are hemming together a religious dictatorship hour by hour, but somewhere along the line, they may stumble and stumble again. They’re not democrats, they are essentially bureaucrats when it comes to governing. Even shows of might is textbook.

Some are saying that if the mullahs and their puppet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prevail, then it gives anti-Iran American wingers and their counterparts in Israel ammo to pressure Obama for an attack on the country because of their vaunted ‘nuclear capability.’ As I said before in another post, the Islamic A-Bomb may not come from an enemy (Iran), but from a friend (Pakistan). I think, though, that Obama ain’t that crazy to be pushed into a corner by these looney tunes. There is too much history here. This isn’t Carter being strong-armed by Kissinger and Rockefeller into letting the Shah come to this country (the dumb move that led the militants to occupy the American Embassy and take hostages in 1979).

But enough about politics for a moment. Ask yourself what do you know about Iran and its people.

I admit that I don’t know very much about Iran. Let’s say I know more than I did when the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power. But what about the common people? Students, farmers, shopkeepers, barristas, etc. et al. Ethnic minorities, religious minorities, women, schoolchildren? Do we even know and care?

I think we have to get ready to get to know the Iranian people. I think conscious people should raid their library if they can’t afford to buy updated books or videos that are relatively free from cant. I think they should also influence their local public television stations to pick up Rick Steves’ Iran: Yesterday and Today if they haven’t yet. Or, you might try subscribing to the podcast of that hour-long travel documentary here or going on You Tube for Parts 1-6 of the show.

Rick Steves is what I call “the thinking woman’s idea of eye candy.” I watch him almost everyday on the PBS Create digital channel here in Madison. I can even enjoy him when he says he misses his wife in some lovely milieu. Although some may see him as simply a smiling, overgrown hippie-type talking about cheaper, out-of-the-way venues on his travel shows, the constant is that he goes where the locals and regular folk go. He’s meeting and confronting his and our prejudices about “those people,” and “Old Europe.” He gives the lie that big tours have to confirm our special Americanness. On the contrary, his tours confirm that we have a lot in common with the rest of the world we supposedly, officially despise. He’s a living example of what Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

Steves’ visit to Iran, produced this year, is more than just a scenic tour, then. It involves history as well as culture, as well as a look at how Iranians live and work and have fun, regardless of whether one is wearing a chador or not. It’s a start, not an end to itself, and shows how receptive the Iranians are towards Americans.

Every country is a lot more complicated than we think. Particularly those countries whose citizenry are predominantly Muslim. You note that I say Muslim instead of Arab. Not every Arab or Syrian is a Muslim. That ignorant prat Bush himself couldn’t tell who was a Shi’a and who was a Sunni, and probably Darth Cheney, John Borton, and a lot of their other henchpeople. I think most Americans give Islam a raw, disrespectful deal in this country, and by so doing, they give succor to the extremists who are just as disparaging about who we are.

In his speech in Cairo, President Obama certainly took a big weapon away from the mullahs when he essentially acknowledged the fact that our CIA had overthrown their rightfully-elected president in 1953, and reinstalled the Pahlavis, which is exactly where these bitter recriminations against the United States began. I am going to try to clean up my act a bit more by learning more and listening more and judging less. Knowing more and passing that knowledge along takes a weapon away from the extremists in our midst. Maybe the rest of America should do likewise–and pray for the Iranian people, too.

~ by blksista on June 15, 2009.

One Response to “Iran is on Fire: How to Keep Its People in Our Minds and Perhaps, Our Hearts”

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